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MACMILLAN & CO., Limited 







(44 B.C. TO 378 AD.) 






All rights reserved 

Copyright, 1909, 

Set up and electrotyped. Published August, 1909. 

Nortoootr Crests 

J. 8. Cushing Co. — Berwick & Smith Co 

Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 


This little book is written to meet a need that 
I believe exists in many college mediaeval history 
classes. Experience in my own teaching work con- 
vinces me that to understand the Middle Ages it 
is necessary to know something of the progress and 
fall of that great Empire whence feudal Europe 
issued, and no compact and practical sketch, suitable 
for the study of the average student, has come to 
hand. Hence the present outline history. 

The narrative is carried to that point in the world's 
story — about 378 a.d. — where divers well-known 
manuals, e.g. Emerton's Introduction to the Middle 
Ages, Robinson's History of Western Europe, etc., 
begin. The average student in a beginner's history 
class in college does not always understand institu- 
tions readily, but he does apprehend personalities, 
hence there is no apology for dwelling somewhat 
more on the individual careers of the emperors 
than the abstract needs of the case would warrant. 
No attempt is made to indicate supplementary 
reading, — every teacher will follow his own humor 
therein, nor is there any call in a book like this for 
a list of authorities and learned citations in foot- 


notes ; but I must acknowledge large indebtedness to 
Schiller, Friedlander, Seeck, Herzog, Preuss, Burck- 
hardt, Hirschfeld, Gardthausen, Wilhelms, Duruy, 
Marquardt, and Mommsen, as well as to such well- 
known English authors as Gibbon, Merivale, and 
Bury. Naturally I have found the great Smith and 
Pauly-Wissowa Encyclopaedias of Antiquity highly 
useful. 1 

In keeping or omitting the endings of Latin proper 
names I have acted more on a sense of the fitness 
of things than on any arbitrary rule. Thus, I have 
written the familiar form of "Aurelian," but I have 
not contracted a less familiar name, such as "Max- 

For the preparation of the maps I must acknowl- 
edge the most kind help of Miss Alice Blackmore, 
formerly my student at Oberlin College, who is en- 
titled to any credit they may deserve. I am also 
deeply grateful to Professors C. N. Cole and J. T. 
Fairchild, both of Oberlin College, for valuable 
assistance on divers details and upon the reading of 

the proofs. 

W. S. D. 

University of Minnesota, 

Minneapolis, Minn. 

1 The fourth and fifth volumes of Ferrero's Greatness and De- 
cline of Rome came to hand too late to be consulted regularly, but 
from many of the assertions and assumptions of that interestingly 
written work I am constrained strongly to dissent. 


Introduction : The Ancient World under Roman 

Chapter I. The Building -DE- the. Empire . 

i. The Ides of March. 44 B.C. . 

2. Antonius, Cicero, and Young Octavian . 

3. The Avenging of Caesar .... 

4. The Rule of the Triumvirs 

5. The Fall of Antonius .... 

6. Octavian becomes Augustus . 

7. The Augustan Regime. The Princeps . 

8. The Senate ...... 

9. The Equites and Ordinary Roman Citizens 

10. The Provincials 

1 1 . Slave s and Freedmen 

12. The Army 

13. The Financial Syste m 

14. Religious Revival . 

15. The Worship of the Emperor 

16. The Pax Romana — General Prosperity of the 

Age . . . 

17. Art and Literature ..... 

18. The Winning and Losing of Germany 

19. The Attempt of Augustus to found a Dynasty 

Chapter II. The Greatness of the Empire 

1. Tiberius — Internal Policy 

2. Tiberius's Foreign Policy — Germanicus . 

3. Sejanus and the Reign of Terror 















4. Gaius ........ 74 

5. Claudius. His Government. The Winning 

of Britain ....... 75 

6. The Rule of Claudius's Wives and Freedmen . 79 

7. Nero : The Years of Good Government . . 82 

8. Nero: The Tyranny 84 

9. The Anarchy, 68 to 69 a.d 88 

10. Vespasian ....... 90 

11. The Jewish War and the Destruction of Jeru- 

salem ........ 94 

12. Titus ........ 96 

13. Domitian. The Principate changing to Out- 

ward Absolutism ...... 97 

14. Nerva. The Beginning of the "Good Em- 

perors" ....... 102 

15. Trajan ........ 103 

16. The Dacian and Parthian Wars . . .106 

17. Hadrian. His Personality 

18. Hadrian's Works of Peace 

19. The City Life under the Empire 

20. Antoninus Pius .... 

21. Marcus Aurelius. His Personality . 

22. Marcus Aurelius. His Wars and Perils 

Chapter III. The Weakening of the Empire . 130 

1. Commodus. His Stagnant Reign . . . 130 

2. Pertinax : Didius Julianus. The Empire put 

up for Sale . . . . . . 131 

3. Septimius Severus ...... 134 

4. The Successors of Severus. The Depraving 

of the Army ...... 137 

5. Alexander Severus. The Last Quiet Reign ere 

Disaster 139 

6. Why the Empire Declined . . . .142 

7. The Great Disasters of the Empire : 235 to 

268 A.D , , , 151 





8. Claudius II "Gothicus" 155 

9. Aurelian, " Restorer of the World" . . 155 
10. From Aurelian to Diocletian . . . .160 

Chapter IV. Christianity and the Empire 

1. The Religious Revival: Mithras Worship 

2. Christianity and the Pagan Power . 

3. Christianity in the Third Century . 

4. Diocletian : The Recasting of the Empire 

5. The Great Persecution under Diocletian . 

6. The Coming of Constantine : The Triumph of 

Christianity ..... 

7. The Reign of Constantine: The Founding of 

Constantinople ..... 

8. The Later Roman Regime 

9. The Last Emperors before the Invasions 
10. Retrospect 









Appendix A. The Governorships of the Prov- 
inces of the Roman Empire .... 203 

Appendix B. Chief Officials and Magistrates 

at Rome under the Early Empire . . 207 

Appendix C. Chronological Table of Emperors 

and of Important Events . . . .210 


1. The Roman Empire .... Frontispiece 

2. The Central Regions of the Roman Empire 

facing page 1 


The Central Regions of the Roman Empire 



The Ancient World under the Roman Supremacy. 

— After the waning of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, 
Persia, the city-states of Greece, and the Empire 
of Macedonia came the Romans to subdue and 
absorb into their system almost all the known 
civilized world. It was an old world already when 
the warriors from the city by the Tiber started 
forth conquering and to conquer. Egypt and 
Babylonia had begun their civilizations probably 
as early as 5000 B.C. In Crete and Mycenae in Greece 
there seem to have been highly developed forms 
of culture two millenniums before Julius Caesar. 
Beside these hoary civilizations the later develop- 
ment of Greece with its marvellous art, poetry, 
philosophy — falling as it did between 600 and 300 
B.C. — had seemed youthful indeed. But even 
Greece was now passing by. Athens was still a 
famous centre of learning. Greek was still the 
tongue of philosophers and literature mongers; 

B I 


but ere the Romans had come on the scene the 
powers of the free Greek cities had been broken by 
the rude, only semi-Grecian Macedonians. Alex- 
ander the Great of Macedon had conquered the 
Orient from the ^Egean to India. Though he and 
his countrymen had subverted the freedom of the 
Greeks at home, abroad he had been the champion 
of Greek as against Oriental culture. Greek fashions, 
Greek literary lore, the Greek language, had been 
made predominant through a large part of Western 
Asia. In Egypt, on the confines of that caste-bound, 
conservative land, had been founded the great 
Grecianized city of Alexandria. As a civilizer, 
a spreader of western ideas among the Orientals, 
Alexander stands without a peer. 

His empire, however, fell to pieces at his death 
(323 B.C.). Half a dozen hostile kingdoms emerged, 
— ruled by his generals and their descendants. 
Through disunion the Grecianized East was in 
no condition to resist the ruder but manlier folk of 
Central Italy when in the second and first centuries 
B.C. these Italians, under the leadership of Rome, 
fell upon them. 

So Asia Minor and Syria passed under the do- 
minion of Rome, as well as did Greece proper. In 
Egypt the feeble kings of the line of the Ptolemies 
held their thrones only at the will of the victor. In 


the West there was even less chance to resist the 
attack. Before ever Rome turned her arms east- 
ward, she had crushed the great Phoenician city 
of Carthage in Northern Africa: a most powerful 
rival, but too weak — even with the aid of the 
military genius of Hannibal, her general — to 
save herself. In Spain there were only dis- 
organized Celtic tribes, and so also in Gaul, — 
peoples brave and warlike, but too uncivilized and 
disunited to make successful stand before the 
Roman. And about the last achievement of the 
Romans ere changing their government from a 
nominal republic to a monarchy was the conquest 
of Gaul (modern France plus Belgium), — a deed 
wrought by Julius Caesar, which carried the con- 
quest far northward to the British Channel, and to 
the Rhine, confronting half-savage Germany. 

Thus the Romans came as the absorbers and 
fulfillers of practically all that men had wrought 
before them. The history of Rome begins as 
that of a little city of shepherds and farmers by 
the Tiber ; it ends by becoming the history of almost 
all the known world. Therein lies its supreme 
importance. All roads in ancient history, as all 
roads in ancient countries, led to Rome. And again 
to understand mediaeval and modern history it is 
needful to understand that Roman Empire from 


the ruins of which so many modern nations have 

During the greater period of this conquest the 
Romans boasted themselves free citizens of a " Re- 
public." No "king" (rex) ruled over them, as over 
the effeminate Easterns they trampled upon. But 
by the year 50 B.C. this Roman Republic, long great 
and glorious, suffered from certain inherent defects 
which made a radical change necessary, if Rome 
were not to lose her dominion. 

I. Though the Roman "franchise" — right to 
vote for laws and for annual magistrates — was 
now theoretically possessed by about all Italians, 
practically it was impossible for the average Italian 
farmer to go frequently to Rome to vote, and he 
could send no proxy. The voting powers thus 
actually fell into the hands of the "city-mob," — 
the idle, corruptible lower class which thronged 
in Rome even beyond most great cities, — open to 
every kind of demagogic appeal, bribe, or unscrupu- 
lous manipulation. 

II. The actual administration of the now great 
Roman dominion was held by the Senate, — an 
august body of six hundred ex-magistrates, the 
members holding seats for life, and the majority of 
them sprung from old aristocratic families. This 
aristocracy had once governed ably and bravely; 


now it was fearfully degenerated; yet, by adroit 
management of the voters of the "city-mob," the 
senatorial oligarchy had long been continued in 
power. Public office had become a synonym for 
private profit. The provincials had been shame- 
lessly exploited to satisfy the lords of the Senate 
and the governors they appointed. The rights of 
the Roman lower classes were frequently thrust 
aside. Luxury and high living in this "noble" 
class went hand in hand with political chicanery 
and sacrifice of the general good. It is impossible 
to give details. Either this corrupt aristocracy must 
be dethroned, or the provincials would be goaded 
into desperate revolt, and there would not be left 
enough efficiency in the administration to crush 
them. Reform or ruin were the alternatives pre- 
sented to the Roman government. 

In 49 B.C. the crisis came when Julius Caesar, con- 
queror of Gaul and champion of the so-called " Popu- 
lar Party," * took up arms against the ruling Senate 
and its general, Pompeius the Great. It is not need- 
ful to settle whether Caesar was justified in begin- 
ning civil war precisely then. It is certain that 
some overturn must have come speedily, if the 
Roman power was to live. In 48 B.C., at Pharsalus 

1 Which claimed to vindicate the rights of the Italian masses 
as against the classes. 


in Northern Greece, Caesar defeated Pompeius, who 
soon after perished in Egypt. From this time to 
his death (44 B.C.) Caesar was the uncrowned mon- 
arch of the world. His title was simply that of 
''Dictator," but there are good grounds for suspect- 
ing that he wished to proclaim himself king. The 
task of beating down the last resistance of his foes 
in Africa and Spain required his attention for the 
time, however. Only in 45 B.C. was he able to stay 
awhile in Rome and begin those reforms by which 
he doubtless hoped to rejuvenate the Roman world. 
Then in a few months the daggers of his so-called 
friends slew him. Men whom he had befriended, as 
the young Marcus Brutus; trusted lieutenants, as 
Decimus Brutus; men he had pardoned and pro- 
moted, as Gaius Cassius, were heads of the con- 
spiracy. About fifty in all were partners in the 
murder. Their motives were various, some selfish, 
some genuinely patriotic. For the instant their 
deed seemed crowned with success. 



i. The Ides of March, 44 B.C. — When, after 
burying their daggers in the body of Julius Caesar, 
the conspirators — Marcus Brutus, Decimus Brutus, 
Cassius, and their fellows — rushed from the Senate 
House, they fondly imagined that they had by a 
single deed restored " liberty" to the Roman com- 
monwealth. In fact, they had simply removed the 
one man supremely capable of reorganizing the de- 
cadent Republic, and of establishing some new 
government fitted to the needs of the array of king- 
doms and peoples which the swords of the Scipios, 
Marius, and Sulla had subdued. Less than four years 
had passed since the battle of Pharsalus had made 
Caesar's cause triumphant; hardly one year since 
the fall of the last armed enemy (at Munda in Spain) 
against the great Dictator. In the short interval 
of peace Caesar had shown an abounding activity. 
He had reformed many organs of the State; had 
started numerous buildings in Rome; had put the 



calendar on a scientific basis, and formed schemes 
for the rebuilding of ruined Carthage and Corinth, 
for the settling of Roman colonies throughout the 
provinces, for the codification of the already com- 
plex system of Roman law. But he had been un- 
able to win the loyal support of all his subalterns. 
Some were disappointed in their hopes of promo- 
tion, others were secretly attached to the cause of 
their general's defeated enemies; still others dis- 
liked Caesar's unconcealed opinion that the " liberty " 
of the later Republic (really the rule of a few noble 
families) must be replaced by an efficient mon- 
archy. The Romans had a traditional hatred of 
Reges — "Kings"; and Caesar did not hesitate to 
show that he intended to accept the kingly title, 
and to rule accordingly. Therefore, a band of his 
avowed friends slew him " because he was am- 
bitious." They believed the situation would return 
automatically to the forms of government prevalent 
before Caesar overthrew the Republic, and that all 
men would hail them as noble saviours of the State. 
On the contrary, from the first the Roman popu- 
lace showed its detestation of their deed. The 
senators had rushed from their meeting place, un- 
willing to countenance such proceedings; the hum- 
bler classes closed their doors and their shops, 
leaving the streets deserted. In some trepidation 


the "liberators" took refuge in the Capitol (the old 
citadel), taking with them some gladiators to guard 
against the general resentment. 

Meantime the servants of Caesar had carried his 
body to the Forum, and the sight of the oft-pierced 
corpse had raised a great lamentation am~>ng the 
multitude, — a further sign the people were sot to 
be trusted. Public harangues by Marcus Brutus 
and Cinna (another conspirator), descending from 
the Capitol, and escorted by gladiators, hardly 
calmed the mob. The " liberators" retired again 
behind their defences, and while they hesitated, 
Marcus Antonius — Caesar's friend and most trusted 
lieutenant, as well as consul * for the year — could 

Antonius himself had feared for his life when the 
news of Caesar's murder spread. Finding he was 
safe, he began to assert himself. Lepidus (another 
lieutenant of Caesar) was outside of Rome with a 
body of regular troops, and very early he assured 
Antonius that he would support him as the chief 
surviving officer of the State. Antonius therefore 
ventured to show himself the next day in the streets 
in his insignia of office, and began to negotiate with 
the band in the Capitol. At first he spoke the 

1 The two consuls were the chief executive officers of the old 
Republic. They were elected annually. Caesar, besides being 
dictator, was temporarily Antonius's colleague in the consulship. 


conspirators fair. The Senate was assembled on 
the second day after the murder. All Caesar's acts 
and arrangements were ratified; amnesty was 
awarded his assassins. Antonius and Lepidus ac- 
tually entertained the ''liberators" at a banquet. 
It was ;nly a brief calm before a long and violent 

2. Antonius, Cicero, and Young Octavian. — Very 
speedily it was plain Antonius had been given enor- 
mous power by this ratification of Caesar's acta. 
The consul secured Caesar's private papers from his 
widow, and was able to carry out about any project , 
by simply announcing he had found it among the 
orders of the late Dictator. To inflame the mob 
against the assassins, he demanded for the slain hero 
a public funeral, and that his will be recited. The 
Senate voted this, despite the warnings of Cassius 
as to its effects upon the multitude. When it was 
known that Caesar had left to every Roman citizen 
a considerable sum of money — when with all the 
actor's art Antonius praised Caesar as the champion 
and benefactor of Rome, and finally held up a 
blood-smeared wax effigy of the Dictator, that all 
the people might see how he was done to death — 
popular feeling overflowed. 1 The body was burned 

1 The famous oration in Shakespeare is true in spirit, though not 
in letter, to the oration as reported in the historian Appianus. 


in the Forum, on a pyre on which personal trinkets, 
the weapons of indignant veterans, the garments of 
the mourners, were added to the fire-wood. Popu- 
lar indignation turned next against the assassins. 
It was fortunate that Marcus Brutus and Cassius 
were not in the city, or they would have been torn 
in pieces. 

Still for a moment peace seemed preserved. 
Antonius showed his power by quelling the riots 
he had himself excited. He accepted as fellow-con- 
sul Dolabella, a friend of the " liberators. " The 
powerful provincial governorships were parcelled 
out according to the plans prepared by the slain 
Caesar, by which several of the actual conspirators 
were to have high commands. Decimus Brutus 
thus set off for Cisalpine Gaul; Macedonia and 
Syria were to go to Marcus Brutus and Cassius re- 
spectively; but Antonius was not anxious to see 
them depart thither, and finally carried a special 
law through the popular assembly (comitia), giving 
these provinces to his own brother Gaius and to 

This was the beginning of the new conflict. 
Headed by the great orator Cicero, who, although 
without part in the original conspiracy, had re- 
joiced in its perpetration when crowned by seeming 
success, the friends of the old constitution began 


attacking Antonius in the Senate, as not honestly 
seeking to restore the "liberty" subverted by 
Caesar; and at this moment a new personage came 
on the scene — the grand-nephew and adopted son 
of the slain Dictator — Octavian. 

Gaius Octavianus stands in history as one of the 
most remarkable examples of youthful precocity ever 
known. He was less than twenty years old, and 
was busy with his studies at Apollonia in Illyricum 
when news came of the tragedy at Rome. His 
experience in public affairs had been slight. His 
health was frail. He was plunging into a situation 
well calculated to try the most practised politician; 
yet after a little counselling with his intimate friend 
Agrippa, he went to Italy, landing near Brundisium 
early in April. He took the name of his adoptive 
father, and avowed that, as Caesar's son, he was 
bound for Rome to seek his father's personal in- 
heritance. The Caesarian name was one to conjure 
with. He did not lack friends and well wishers. 
At Rome he found Antonius prepared to contest 
his claim to the Dictator's private fortune, and to 
checkmate the consul he began gathering an armed 
band out of Caesar's veterans settled in Campania. 
In alarm Antonius paid over part of the money; 
but Octavian's position was still precarious. He 
pretended to have no intention of avenging the 


Dictator, and let Cicero and the Constitutionalists 
treat him as a harmless and useful tool for shelving 
Antonius. None realized that in this unpretending 
youth there was a statesman and manipulator of 
men of the very first order. By November (44 B.C.) 
he was inducing a large part of the army, which 
Antonius had gathered in South Italy, to reject the 
consul's officers and to receive him as commander. 

Matters were now again close to civil war. In 
Rome, Cicero and his friends grew bolder as An- 
tonius's power seemed weakening. Gathering what 
forces still were loyal, Antonius marched from 
Rome northward, planning to destroy Decimus 
Brutus's army in Gaul, then carry the war further. 
Freed from his presence, Cicero made the Senate 
House ring with a series of fiery attacks, known as 
the Philippics. 1 No compromise remained possible. 
Octavian put his legions at the disposal of the Senate. 
The new consuls for 43 B.C., Pansa and Hirtius, as- 
sembled armies; martial law was proclaimed; every 
step, in short, taken to destroy Antonius. 

He, meantime, was besieging Decimus Brutus in 
the North Italian city of Mutina. In an attempt to 
relieve the city, the combined armies of the consuls 
and Octavius defeated Antonius, although both of 

1 From their likeness to the original "Philippics" of Demos- 
thenes against Philip of Macedon. 


the consuls were mortally wounded in the engage- 
ment. Antonius retreated hastily towards Transal- 
pine Gaul ; and for a moment Cicero at Rome be- 
lieved that peace and liberty had returned. 

3. The Avenging of Caesar. — Never was hope 
more blasted than that of Cicero. The real decision 
lay all with young Octavian, yet the Senate failed 
to realize the need of humoring him. Believing 
Antonius finally disposed of, and that in the East 
Marcus Brutus and Cassius were assembling power- 
ful armies, it seemed safe to ignore this very young 
man who bore the name of the hated Dictator. No 
especially high honors were voted him for his part 
in the victory. He asked for a consulship ! and a 
triumph; these were refused. Probably there came 
to his ears a saying of Cicero's, "The young man 
is to be praised, complimented, and thrust aside." 
To make matters worse, the Senate was considering 
the undoing of the land grants of Caesar to his 
veterans. This was enough to incense the soldiers. 
A deputation of four hundred men from Octavian's 
army waited on the Senate, to ask the consulship 
for their leader. A centurion, — one Cornelius, — 
standing before the Conscript Fathers, touched his 
sword-hilt, saying abruptly, "If you will not give it, 

1 Being under the proper age, he needed a special permission to 
be allowed to stand for election by the people. 


this will." He was in fact announcing the coming 
of the Roman Imperial System, of which the key- 
stone was to be the rule of the State by the man 
who held the allegiance of the army. But still the 
Senate temporized. Octavian sent friendly mes- 
sages to Antonius. Decimus Brutus was vainly 
trying to make his way around the Adriatic to 
Marcus Brutus in Macedonia, and was destined to 
be deserted by his men and be slain on the march. 
No other troops were at hand to guard Rome when 
Octavian advanced upon the city. No defence was 
possible. The young man was duly elected consul, 
with his cousin as colleague; the decree of outlawry 
was passed against Caesar's murderers, and Octavian 
went north again to hold conference with Antonius. 
Antonius had been at his best when rallying his 
troops after the disaster near Mutina. He had 
showed great courage, gallantry, and fortitude. 
Now he would treat Octavian on terms of equality. 
The third factor to consider was Lepidus, who now, 
as governor of Spain, controlled a large army, 
and who had broken with the Constitutionalists. It 
did not take long for these three men to reach an 
agreement to share the dictatorial power:" "Tri- 
umviri for the establishing of the Republic" they 
caused themselves to be styled. For five years they 
were to name the ordinary magistrates and to con- 


trol the destinies of the State. To make certain that 
no insurrection broke out in Italy, while they were 
crushing the ''liberators" in the East, a wholesale 
proscription of past and presumptive enemies was 
arranged. Octavian is said to have resisted this 
last feature, but had to give way. Especially he 
was unable to save Cicero, whom Antonius hated 
with a deep personal hatred. Lepidus allowed his 
own brother to be sacrificed, in exchange for An- 
tonius's surrender of his uncle. The exact number 
of prominent men who thus perished cannot be told 
with certainty: the historian Livy says " one hundred 
and thirty senators and a great many knights." The 
most distinguished victim, of course, was Cicero 
(died December, 43 B.C.), who with all his faults 
must stand out as the greatest of Roman litterateurs 
and orators. 

The triumvirs completed their task in 42 B.C., 
when, crossing into Macedonia, Antonius and Oc- 
tavian brought the armies of Marcus Brutus and 
Cassius to bay at Philippi. A first battle was prac- 
tically a draw, but Cassius, believing for a moment 
that all was lost, committed suicide. In a second 
battle Brutus' s army was routed, and he also slew 
himself. The dream of " liberation" had vanished. 
The only question was, How would the triumvirs 
rule the world? 


4. The Rule of the Triumvirs. — Of the three 
masters of the Roman world, Lepidus was the most 
insignificant. A fair military man, and important 
momentarily from the strength of his army, he was 
without the energy and political ability to form more 
than a makeweight to his more successful colleagues. 
Somewhat contemptuously he was offered the prov- 
ince of Africa. Marcus Antonius and Octavian 
were of hardier stuff. At his worst, Antonius was 
an idling, luxury-loving debauchee; at his best, a 
leader of rare fortitude and military capacity, and 
no mean politician. But he was without wide 
statesmanlike vision. It is hard to imagine him 
completing the constructive work of Julius Caesar. 
Left to himself, he might have become an ephem- 
eral despot of the Oriental type, and won a flash 
of soldierly success, but would never have become a 
builder of the Empire. Of Octavian at this moment 
it would be hard to judge. He was still very young, 
and treading a perilous path. At Philippi the 
victory had been won by Antonius's army, not his. 
He was on uncertain terms of alliance with very 
selfish and unscrupulous confederates. It is not 
surprising that this cold, shy youth at first seemed 
likely to be brushed aside — in due time — by the 
more brilliant activity of Antonius. 

Yet the fates of Rome ordered otherwise. By an 


agreement after the victory, Octavian was to go to 
Italy and assemble forces to conquer Sextus Pompeius 
(son of Pompeius the Great), who had seized Sicily, 
and was holding the capital at his mercy by cutting 
off her grain supplies from abroad. Antonius, on 
the other hand, was to visit the golden East to levy 
tribute from the vassal kings, and later to arrange a 
great campaign — Alexander-like — for the conquest 
of the distant Parthians. 

The chance for glory certainly seemed Antonius' s, 
the more especially as in Italy his own brother Lucius 
set at nought the terms of agreement, and defied 
Octavian' s power. A brief civil war waged around 
Perusia in Central Italy terminated his uprising 
(40 B.C.), and Antonius after some hesitation refused 
to make common cause with his brother; yet Oc- 
tavian's embarrassments grew not less, especially 
as Sextus Pompeius, having assembled a large naval 
force, held all his attackers at bay, and the huge 
army of veterans — demanding rewards from Oc- 
tavian which he could not promptly supply — almost 
threatened mutiny. 

A new treaty made at Brundisium (40 B.C.) for 
a while eased the situation. Everything east of 
the Adriatic was to go to Antonius. Lepidus was 
to keep Africa. Octavian was to hold the rest of 
the Empire (including Italy). Antonius cemented 


the bargain by marrying Octavia, the sister of his 
young rival. As a next step Sextus was induced to 
cease his naval attacks, and receive peacefully Sicily, 
Sardinia, Corsica, and Achaia (Southern Greece), 
for possession (39 B.C.)* This last bargain, however, 
was not loyally kept by either side. Octavian re- 
newed the war. Thanks to the efforts of his very 
able friend and lieutenant, Agrippa, a fleet was at 
last assembled capable of dealing with the semi- 
corsair forces of Sextus. Defeated off Sicily (36 B.C.), 
the fallen chieftain fled to Asia, where a general 
of Antonius slew him. Simultaneously came the 
fall of Lepidus. He had crossed to Sicily avowedly 
to aid Octavian, but soon claimed the island for 
himself. His soldiers deserted him; he was reduced 
to beg Octavian for his life. The conqueror forced 
him to resign his province of Africa, then sent him 
to Rome, where he dwelt safely till his death 
(13 B.C.), not even being stripped of his dignity as 
Pontifex Maximus (head of the Roman religion). 

Octavian was thus at last triumphant in the West. 
Meantime, in the East, Antonius was becoming in- 
volved in one of the most famous romances of history. 
Cleopatra, heiress of the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt, 
had already cast her fascinations around Julius 
Caesar. She now was in her twenty-eighth year: 
not perhaps a woman of remarkable physical beauty, 


but with a wit, magnetism, talent that made the 
somewhat open-hearted triumvir an easy victim. 
The story of their first meeting (41 B.C.) at Tarsus, 
in Cilicia, when in her barge of state, with silver 
oars, and amid music and perfumes, she glided up the 
Cydnus, has passed into poetry. No doubt a desire 
to obtain, through her, command of the treasures of 
Egypt had its influence on the Roman; no doubt 
desire to secure political advantages by an intrigue 
with the great triumvir reacted on the Queen; yet 
one need not doubt there was a considerable inter- 
mingling of genuine human passion. 

5. The Fall of Antonius. — Worldly expediency at 
first required that Antonius should quit the com- 
pany of his Egyptian paramour and live in at least 
outward harmony with his noble and high-minded 
bride, Octavia; but the cold and stately virtue of 
the Roman lady was a scant counterpoise to the 
voluptuous enchantments of the Oriental. In 37 B.C. 
Antonius left Octavia in Italy and never saw her 
again. He plunged into his struggle with Parthia, 
trying very obviously to build up a huge monarchy 
in the East, perhaps not in entire subjection to Rome. 
His great campaign into Media (36 B.C.) was in 
the main disastrous; but Antonius was remarkably 
successful in keeping the loyalty of his troops, and 
for a while a considerable faction at Rome sup- 


ported his claims and wishes in opposition to those 
of Octavian. More and more, however, the sensuous 
charm of the East was gaining over the erstwhile 
vindicator of Caesar. He appears increasingly as 
a mere sultan. He deliberately styled Cleopatra 
" Queen of Queens." He declared her children 
(borne to him by her, or, it was alleged, by an earlier 
connection to Julius Caesar) kings and queens of 
provinces conquered by Roman legions. A keen 
fear began to exist in Rome that Antonius actually 
intended to transfer the capital to Alexandria. 
Under these circumstances, with the personal insult 
to Octavia added, his relations to Octavian grew 
ever colder. 

While thus the senior joint-ruler was becoming 
unpopular in Italy, the junior ruler was quietly 
strengthening himself in public esteem. Law and 
order had been secured at home. In person, or 
aided by the skilful Agrippa or by other generals, 
Octavian had made wide conquests in Illyricum and 
Pannonia, insuring the safety of the Roman frontier 
to the northeast. A dangerous uprising in Gaul was 
stamped out. Octavius, despite the anomalous 
foundation of his government, was gaining a name 
for firmness, moderation, leniency, in marked con- 
trast to the stories of the despotic caprices of his 
Eastern rival. 


The breach (long foreshadowed) came in 32 
B.C., each side alleging many grievances, the one 
underlying cause being that their respective am- 
bitions were incompatible. But Octavian was able 
to take the hopes and good wishes of the great ma- 
jority of the Italian people with him into the struggle. 
It was really another round in the long duel between 
East and West, which began at Marathon or earlier, 
and of which the twentieth century sees not yet the 
end. Antonius had behind him a goodly number of 
regular Roman legions, and all the riches and might 
of the East. He had assembled a vast fleet, Cleo- 
patra supplying a large contingent of heavy war 
galleys. A smaller but more mobile flotilla of 
lighter war-ships had been collected by Agrippa, 
and it was by sea power that the fate of the Ancient 
World was decided. 1 Early in 31 a.d. Octavian and 
Agrippa began a joint attack by land and sea upon 
Antonius's forces, disposed in their camps and havens, 
in Western Greece over against Italy. It was soon 
plain that Antonius had lost the confidence of his 
officers and friends. His forces were at length con- 
fined to a spot near the promontory of Actium; 
and conditions looking serious both by land and 

1 It is worth noting that this battle of Actium was the last pitched 
sea-fight of first importance till well along in the history of the 
Middle Ages. There was some naval warfare of a limited type 
in 194 a.d. and in 323 a.d. 


sea, Cleopatra earnestly advised leaving garrisons 
in Greece, and at least withdrawing the fleet to 

This was not cowardice, but probably sound wis- 
dom. The further from their base in Italy, the 
deeper into the East Octavian and Agrippa were 
compelled to go, the greater the chance of defeating 
them; but when on the 2d of September, 31 B.C., 
Antonius ordered his ships to put out from Actium, 
Octavian's squadrons, forewarned and ready, at once 
attacked them, and a desperate battle raged all the 
afternoon. The heavy ships of Antonius for long 
beat off the lighter hostile galleys; but in an evil 
moment Cleopatra — anxious not to fight but to 
fly — signalled to her Egyptian squadron to make 
off. In the confusion following, Antonius's cause 
was hopelessly lost. The remainder of his ships 
were overpowered, fighting gallantly often to the 
last. Antonius, believing all was over, fled after 
Cleopatra. Soon afterward his large land army — 
bereft of its leader and hopeless — surrendered. 

The Empire was won. It remained to be seen 
whether Octavian's career in power would be longer 
than that of his mighty predecessor and kinsman. 
To pursue Antonius to Alexandria, whither, guided 
again by his evil star, he had followed Cleopatra; 
to overpower his last resistance, and drive him to 


suicide ; to capture Cleopatra, but see her escape 
from his power by another suicide (30 B.C.), — it 
is alleged by the bite of an asp, — these were the 
mere aftermath of the victory. 

It was now fourteen years since the death of 
Julius Caesar. The world was in grievous need of 
rest. Many of the old champions of "Republican 
liberty" were dead; others had learned wisdom. 
Octavian had beaten down every foe. He made 
and unmade the petty vassal kings of the East. 
He abolished the royal dynasty of Egypt, and took 
the whole wealthy Nile valley as his personal pos- 
session. He was no longer the inexperienced lad, 
but a victorious warrior, a trained politician, a keen 
judge of men. The conquest of the East had given 
him ample treasures. The futures of seventy odd 
millions of men from the British Channel to the 
Euphrates were his to mould for one lot or another. 
A vast opportunity. It is now to see how he used it. 

6. Octavian becomes Augustus. — It is needless 
to trace the various steps by which the conqueror 
gradually put off the extra-constitutional and dicta- 
torial powers he had assumed at the time of his 
coalition with Antonius, but which must now be 
replaced with a more permanent regime. In 29 B.C. 
he celebrated at Rome a magnificent triple triumph, 
and closed the doors of the Temple of Janus as 


solemn declaration that the period of war was over. 
Cautious, cold-blooded, merciful now because con- 
vinced that mercy was the best policy, this successor 
of the great Caesar began to organize that mighty 
fabric which was to endure substantially intact for 
two centuries, and then — with increasing signs of 
alteration and decay — for three more, — the Roman 

The raw material was at hand; the preliminary 
work had been done. All awaited the touch of the 
master. Never before had the Syrian and Spaniard, 
Egyptian and Batavian been under a common yoke, 
made ready for a common destiny. Old things 
had passed away before the swords of the legions, 
and all things were ready to become new. The 
Roman Republic had conquered the world, but it 
had not known how to govern it, any more than 
it had known how to govern itself. The last century 
of the Republic had been one of great misery to the 
subject peoples, — exposed to the rapacity of corrupt 
governors and of still more corrupt " publicani" — 
the leasers of the right to collect the taxes. Now 
it was necessary — if the whole fabric was not 
to dissolve — to reorganize the provincial admin- 
istration on a basis of fair consideration for the sub- 
ject peoples, — perhaps for no better reason than 
that bad government in the end reacts upon the 


governing classes. Also Rome and Italy must be 
reorganized. There must be an end to the misdeeds 
of a Senate of oligarchs, and a popular assembly 
of Forum loiterers. The courts must be purified 
and freed from bribery. Public office must be 
again made a public trust. The agricultural sections 
of Italy — the best recruiting ground for the legions 
— were declining sadly. Means must be found to 
repopulate them. Manners and morals at Rome 
were becoming hideously bad. They must be re- 
formed. The old state religion was almost beneath 
the contempt of men steeped in the Greek philosophy. 
But religion was a powerful adjunct to Roman or 
Greek government; therefore it too must be revivified. 
The army had swollen to enormous size, thanks to 
the civil wars. The veterans were insatiable in 
demands for donatives and land grants. The 
legions must be put on an efficient peace footing, 
and the veterans satisfied or at least quieted. 

All these problems waited Octavian for settlement, 
yet he dared not pose openly as the benevolent 
despot. He must salve the consciences and suscep- 
tibilities of men who still called Rome a "free 
commonwealth." He must avoid the hated term 
"Rex." He must remember his great-uncle's ca- 
tastrophe, must never be called dictator or king; 
must preserve the semblance of the old constitution, 


while actually he should become head of a new mili- 
tary monarchy. 

The later historian, Cassius Dio, represents Octa- 
vian holding a solemn conference with his bosom 
friends, Agrippa and the subtle, unpretending, but 
not less valuable, Maecenas. The advantages of 
monarchy and non-monarchy are carefully discussed. 
Agrippa argues that the monarch's lot is a precarious 
one, and advises his chief to enact a few needful re- 
form laws, then to retire from office. Maecenas argues 
that it is impossible to retire now; better to set up 
a sovranty, but with the monarchical forms care- 
fully disguised. The advice of Maecenas is taken: 
Octavian resolves to remain in power. The story 
of Dio is no doubt fanciful, but the problem of 
Octavian was not fanciful. In assuming to rule 
Rome, the ruler risked the constant danger of over- 
throw by a proud nobility and a turbulent and fickle 
populace still calling itself "the sovran people." 
The army seemed loyal to the new regime, but mili- 
tary monarchies are proverbially insecure. It speaks 
much for the skill of Octavian that he succeeded in 
his task, and died after a long and relatively tranquil 

In 27 B.C. he allowed an obsequious Senate to 
bestow on him the name Augustus (by which name 
hereafter we shall call him). By 23 B.C. he had 


virtually settled the forms by which he was to exer- 
cise his government. Since the " Augustan Regime" 
virtually lasted through all the prosperous period 
of the Empire, it is wise to consider its points with 
some detail. 

7. The Augustan Regime; the Princeps. — The 
head of the new monarchy was not a "king by 
divine right. " In theory he was only a new magis- 
trate among the many magistrates of the old Re- 
public. But he exercised not so much new powers 
as, combined in his person, the powers of several old 
annual magistrates, and now held these collective 
functions practically for life. His regular title at 
first — so far as he had any one title — was Prin- 
ceps; i.e. first in honor among his fellow-citizens 
and especially among the senators; and "the 
Principate" is the term modern historians some- 
times give to the early Empire. But as Princeps 
he had no special power, just as "Augustus" — "a 
name which roused no jealousy, yet vaguely im- 
plied some dignity and reverence from its long 
association with religion" — was at first a mere 
honorific title, albeit a unique one. The most 
usual term given in modern times to the Roman 
sovrans is the "Emperors," i.e. Imperatores. Now 
an Imperator had been a victorious general, and the 
title had been borne by divers Roman conquerors 


under the Republic, each hailed as "Itnperator!" 
by his troops after a successful battle. It is true 
Julius Caesar took the title, and in 29 B.C. Octavian 
also, as a special name, to point out that they were 
invested with supreme power. Afterwards it was 
borne by every Roman sovran, and forbidden to 
mere generals. It undoubtedly implied the chief 
command of the army, yet how this command was 
to be exercised was nowhere clearly defined. Simply 
as an "Imperator," a war-chief, the new ruler would 
have found his power on an unsatisfactory basis. 

But in fact Augustus and his successors were 
strong because they were vested with (I) The Pro- 
consular Power; (II) The Office of Pontifex Maxi- 
mus; (III) The Tribunician Power. 

I. The Proconsular Power. — The proconsuls — 
substitutes, in Republican days, for the highly im- 
portant consuls — had been the ordinary govern- 
ors of the conquered provinces, and commanders 
of the armies outside of Italy. Augustus takes 
now to himself the "Proconsular Iniperium" that 
is, the right to supervise every part of the Roman 
dominion, to control the army in every province, 
and his power is considered higher than that of the 
local proconsuls and other magistrates. They must 
do his bidding. The army all over the Empire 
acknowledges him as general. He holds office for 


life, 1 while the other short-term officials are im- 
potent before him. 

II. The Office of Pontifex Maxirnus. • — This post 
Augustus did not assume until the death of its 
holder, Lepidus. It gave the sovran complete con- 
trol of the state religion, the arrangement of public 
festivals, the nomination to and control of various 
priesthoods, etc., — a power not formidable in 
itself, yet dangerous to leave in private hands. An 
emperor was henceforth Pontifex Maxirnus for life. 

III. The Tribunician Power. — The old "Trib- 
unes of the People" had been instituted to protect 
the plebeians against patrician oppression. They 
had the right to veto, to prohibit the doings of 
any magistrate, or of the whole Senate even; to con- 
vene the Senate and deliberate with it; to assemble 
the people (the comitia) and ask them to vote laws. 
During their year of office they were inviolable. The 
man who harmed one personally became an out- 
law, to be slain on sight by any citizen. The 
office had proven a tremendous one in the hands 
of a determined man. 2 Augustus took not the title 

1 The sovran power was in theory renewable every ten years, 
but this was soon reduced to a mere formality, and was simply 
the occasion for a grand festival in the ruler's honor. 

2 The famous Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus, who 
convulsed all Rome, were able to do so by virtue of their office as 
tribunes of the plebs. 


of ' 'Tribune" (a mere annual office, and shared 
among ten men), but the " Tribunician Power." 
He held this power all his life. Every emperor 
held it after him. He was now sacrosanct in 
person ; he could convoke the Senate and pop- 
ular assemblies ; he could absolutely forbid the 
actions of any other magistrate. Within Rome, 
in short, this tribunician's power gave him the 
wide authority which outside of Rome the pro- 
consular power conferred upon him. The com- 
bination of the two powers made the Princeps 

In theory, to be sure, he was merely the " first 
citizen" of a free commonwealth. " Augustus" he 
was called in honor, and "Caesar" as a mere family 
name. He was the "Son of a God," for Julius, 
his adoptive father, had been deified. Still his 
dwelling on the Palatine 1 was hardly more mag- 
nificent than that of many a Roman millionnaire. 
He avoided the trappings of Oriental royalty, re- 
mained open and companionable to his friends — 
in short, played the part of a typical noble gentle- 
man. The harsh proscriptions of his youth were 
forgotten when he graciously pardoned would-be 
conspirators. The "leniency of Augustus" became 

1 The term "palace" is from Palatium, the hill where Augustus 
had his residence. 


proverbial, but it was the leniency of an absolute 
monarch, albeit one without a crown. 

8. The Senate. — Yet in appearance this mon- 
arch had a formidable rival — the Senate. Six hun- 
dred persons, scions mostly of the proudest and 
oldest Roman families, were members of this august 
body. They were distinguished in mere dress by 
the right to wear a broad strip of purple upon their 
tunics, and a special kind of shoes. For practical 
purposes they soon superseded the old assemblies of 
the people for voting laws (senatus consulta), and as 
a high court for state trials. With them the em- 
peror advised on all great affairs. He drew his 
concilium — a private advisory committee — from 
their number. To be raised to the rank of senator 
would be the highest ambition of any mere pro- 
vincial, something almost, though not quite, be- 
yond his attainment. To become senator, a Roman 
must ordinarily be elected to one of the old Repub- 
lican offices, — which still were maintained in form, 
— beginning with the rank of qucestor (treasury 
officer) and working upward to the still high dignity 
of consul. Such an election (in Augustus's day 
still awarded by the votes of the citizens) gave a 
life seat in this most venerable company. 

In theory the emperors ruled with the advice 
and cooperation of the Senate, which posed as an 


independent body. If the emperors controlled the 
issue of gold and silver money, the Senate con- 
trolled that of copper. If the emperors appointed 
the governors of the troubled frontier provinces, 
the Senate named and controlled those of the peace- 
ful interior districts. 1 The individual senators were 
required to have a property worth 1,000,000 sester- 
ces 2 (and many had vastly more), so that the mere 
wealth of the collective body made it important. 
Lastly, when emperors were made and unmade, the 
confirming of a new princeps, the decreeing the 
deification or condemnation of the memory of a 
dead one — this, too, belonged to the Senate. 

But in reality the powers of this famous body 
were an empty show. As a rule the Senate was a 
mere cloak to conceal the tyranny or ratify the just 
wish of the head of the legions. By pretending to 
honor it, and govern through it, Augustus could 

1 Under the first principate, the Emperor took the direct rule of 
Northern Spain (Tarraconensis), Lusitania, the two north Gallic 
provinces, Noricum, Pannonia, Rhaetia, Mcesia, Cilicia, Galatia, 
Syria and Egypt. The Senate had Africa, Asia, Southern Spain 
(Baetica), South Gaul (Narbonensis), Sicily, Sardinia, Illyricum 
with Dalmatia, Macedonia, Achaia, Crete with Cyrene, Cyprus, 
and Bithynia with Pontus. Later annexations went almost 
entirely to the Emperor, and there were many subsequent divis- 
ions and exchanges of provinces. See Appendix A. 

2 A little over $40,000, though Roman money had vastly greater 
purchasing power than the money of to-day. 



call himself "Princeps," when he was actually Dic- 
tator. In the course of history the Senate as a 
body proved itself of no fibre or true nobility, ready 
to flatter the worst vices of the worst emperors. 
And though the better emperors treated it with 
much honor and consideration, this was largely be- 
cause of the prestige of the body, and of the worth 
of some individual members, rather than because 
the Roman Senate was still that " Assembly of 
Kings" which it had once been boasted to be in 
the best days of the Republic. 

9. The Equites and Ordinary Roman Citizens. — 
The senators virtually constituted an hereditary 
class; the direct descendants of senators were 
members of the ordo senatorius, enjoying the highest 
kind of nobility, and usually the only persons eligible 
for election to those offices which in turn gave seats 
in the Senate. Ranking below them came the sec- 
ond order of nobles — the Equites — or, as often Eng- 
lished, "the knights." 

The Equites originally had been citizens of suffi- 
cient means to keep a cavalry horse. By Augus- 
tus's time, with the coming of a large professional 
army, this requirement had lost most of its im- 
portance. Generally speaking, to be an Eques, one 
must have possessed 400,000 sesterces ($16,000), 
be the son of free parents, and be of good standing 


in the community. Thus qualified, one could hope 
to enter on civil or military offices leading to about 
any honor short of the Senate, especially to "prae- 
fectships" and " procuratorships " — those numer- 
ous administrative posts required by the new Em- 
pire, and often more influential and profitable than 
the old consulship. 

The Equites also were the jurymen in the regu- 
lar Roman courts of the period. The majority of 
them, however, were engaged in commerce and 
general business. They were indefatigable money- 
lenders, promoters, syndicate managers. The wealth 
of an Eques — who preferred business to public life 
— might often exceed that of all save a few sena- 
tors. Nevertheless, being frequently men of rather 
humble birth, the emperors often preferred to use 
Equites as officials, in place of the more lordly 
senators. The governor of the great province of 
Egypt was thus always an Eques. 

The Equites had their honors as well as the sena- 
tors. They wore the gold ring, and the narrow 
purple stripe on their tunics. They had seats of 
honor at public festivals. If they entered public 
service, they received high-sounding titles — egregius, 
perfectissimus, and to a favored few eminentissimus. 
Equites without office, and living away from Rome, 
were called commonly splendidi; and " splendid" 


no doubt seemed their wealth and state to the sub- 
ject provincials. 

Beneath the Equites came, of course, the non- 
noble " plebeians." A large fraction of the ancient 
world by this time enjoyed Roman citizenship. The 
Queen of the Tiber had in the main avoided the 
blunder of Athens, that of refusing her franchise to 
the peoples she conquered. Practically all Italy 
had the Roman franchise, and many "citizen- 
colonies" were being founded in the provinces. 
Also many isolated provincials were rewarded with 
citizenship for service to the State, and presently 
even whole communities, as they gained the favor 
of an emperor — sometimes with the full "Roman" 
citizenship, sometimes with a partial "Latin" right. 

The privileges of the citizens as against the sub- 
ject provincials were partly fiscal — an exemption 
from the direct taxation which weighed more or less 
heavily on the provinces; partly political — only 
citizens, of course, being eligible for governmental 
offices; but probably in the main legal — the 
citizen being sure of the protection of the firm Roman 
law, of a certain amount of prestige and advantage 
if he got into litigation with a provincial, and of 
safety from the somewhat irresponsible behavior of 
the local magistrates. It was a mighty advantage 
to St. Paul to be able to boast "Civis Romanus 


sunt!" and to "appeal unto Caesar" (i.e. Nero) 
when the Jews accused him before Festus. This 
privileged class of the population was continually 
growing, until to be a " Roman" by no means im- 
plied being an Italian. An inscription probably of 
Augustus (at about the time of his death) sets the 
number of enrolled Roman citizens at 4,937,000. 
If we reckon in a corresponding number of women 
and children, the whole number of " Romans" may 
be perhaps 17,000,000, — possibly one-fifth to one- 
fourth of the entire Empire, and their number con- 
tinued for long to increase. 

10. The Provincials. — What was the population 
of this vast world Empire organized by Augustus? 
Accurate statistics there are none ; guesses — more 
or less careful — are many. From a minimum of 
40,000,000 they run up to over 85,000,000. Prob- 
ably the truth lies somewhere between. It is likely 
that at its best days the Empire boasted 60,000,000 
to 75,000,000, a larger number of men than came 
ever again into one civilized polity — barring China 
— until very recent times; and the task of coalescing 
them into a unit, of absorbing their race antipa- 
thies, levelling their national barriers, of making 
Gaul and Egyptian alike into "good Romans," was 
a task to which the practical Italian statesmen had 
to bend all their energies. For the moment it was 


enough that nowhere was any formidable rebellion 
raised against Roman power, — that a decree could 
go out "from Caesar Augustus that all the world 
should be taxed." 

Nowhere was the Roman genius happier than in 
dealing with these problems. Local creeds and cults 
were tolerated when not seditious or horrible. 1 So 
far as possible, the local governments and institu- 
tions of villages and towns were left standing. Cer- 
tain fortunate communities were admitted as "Allies 
of Rome," nominally independent, free from the in- 
trusion of the local governor. Athens was such a 
favored town. It was the alliance of the lion and 
the lamb, but the lion did not assert his strength 

The average provincial was indeed subjected to a 
relatively heavy taxation, — a land-tax on farmers, 
a poll-tax on traders and townsmen, a tax on the 
products of mines, a customs tax at the provincial 
frontiers, and, notably in Egypt and Africa, a tax 
in corn for the special supply of the ever hungry- 
capital. But, thanks to the fairness of the assess- 
ments, the abolition of the old abuses in collecting, 
the watchfulness of the emperors over their own 
officials, while extortion was not unknown, it was 

1 The Romans had to suppress the Druid worship in Gaul, 
because it employed human sacrifice. 


relatively rare. The provincials in the main paid 
their taxes cheerfully. If they reflected on their 
burdens, they could consider that they probably 
had paid much more to their one-time native 
princes, that the Roman rule meant law, order, 
protection from invasion, non-interference in cher- 
ished local institutions, and an opportunity for 
commerce and intercourse throughout the whole 
Mediterranean basin and far beyond, — the greatest 
peace and freedom for trade and enjoyment the 
world had ever known. Only certain peculiar 
nations like the Jews grumbled. In the main the 
striking feature about the Roman Empire was the 
cheerfulness with which most provinces submitted to 
its rule, and the absence of armed attempts to throw 
off the imperial supremacy. 

11. Slaves and Freedmen. — Yet none can deny 
the darker side to this picture. At the bottom of the 
social ladder were the slaves. Slavery in ancient 
times was such a matter of course that no man 
dreamed of disputing its morality. Hundreds of 
menials swarmed every senatorial palace, — blond 
German porters, dark Syrian valets, bright-eyed 
maids from Greece. The lot of the house slaves was 
not miserable. Probably they had too much time 
for idleness. Infinitely more wretched were the 
farm slaves (tilling most of the great estates of Italy 


and spreading the foul system into the provinces), 
working in chain-gangs under the lash, penned at 
night in underground prisons (ergaslula). Panting, 
cursing, hopeless, all but beasts, it is no wonder 
Roman writers on farming spoke of them as " Speak- 
ing Tools," — only a little different from "Semi- 
speaking Tools," the cattle, and "Mute Tools," 
the ploughs and mattocks. It was deliberately 
argued that it was cheaper to work a slave to death 
and buy a new one than to try to spare the old 
slave and doctor him. In Augustus's day — thanks 
to the conquests — the supply of slaves was abun- 
dant and cheap. An efficient farm hand brought 
less than $100 ; a handsome cup-bearer, a clever 
accounting clerk, a trained Greek schoolmaster, a 
pretty dancing girl, of course, brought far more. 
Slaves were used in place of hired artisans in all 
manner of factories, or as shopman's clerks. For the 
moment they were far cheaper to the employer than 
free hired labor, and free labor in the farms and 
trades of Italy and elsewhere was close to being 
ruined. Presently the day would come when the 
legions would cease to conquer, and since slaves 
seldom could bring up families, the whole labor 
supply of the world was dried up. But that disaster 
seemed far away in the time of Augustus. 

Sombre as was the slavery of the Empire, still the 


motives of humanity and mere desire to seem generous 
led to very frequent manumissions. 1 The freedmen 
were under a social stigma, but their aptitude 
for work, learned in a rough school, helped them in 
business. " Rich as a freedman " became a proverb. 
They continued as the clients and confidential agents 
of their ex-masters. The freedman of a magnate 
might be himself a highly important person. The 
freedman of an emperor was often, as will be seen, 
a very powerful prime minister. Many a famous 
man of the Empire was a freedman, and in 217 a.d. 
there reigned an Emperor (Macrinus) who, his ene- 
mies asserted, had once been a slave himself. Yet 
despite these notable exceptions, the moral and eco- 
nomic millstone of slavery must not be forgotten, 
hanging as it ever did around the neck of the Roman 

12. The Army. — Behind the princes, the Sen- 
ate, the citizen body, the provincials, the teeming 
millions of many lands and tongues, was the power 
that really held this vast fabric safe and compact, — 
the Roman army. Its prime function was no longer 
to conquer, but to protect ; for, barring some wretched 
Germans in the North, some semi-barbaric Parthians 

1 Probably the faithful slave of a kind master could hope for 
release in about seven years ; or he might be allowed to work for 
himself, save a little fortune (his peculium), and buy his release. 


beyond the Euphrates, there seemed hardly a foreign 
foe worth righting. One of Augustus's first tasks 
upon restoring peace was to disband a large part of the 
huge armies collected by the civil wars. But twenty- 
five legions (5000-6000 men each) were retained, 1 
for the most part distributed along the exposed 
Rhine, Danube, and Euphrates frontier, while a few 
detachments and militia put down rioters and 
brigands in the peaceful interior provinces. Supple- 
menting the regular troops of the line — the legion- 
aries — was about an equal number of irregular 
cavalry and light infantry (auxilia) for special 
service. The armies of the Republic had been re- 
cruited almost exclusively in Italy, but Italians 
were losing their fondness for arms, thanks to the 
long peace. It was necessary to recruit more and 
more in the provinces, — at first among the Roman 
citizens there residing, 2 — by holding out money and 
land grants (besides the regular pay) as a bonus 
on discharge after twenty years of faithful service. 
Thus in time the ruling race ceased to predominate 
in the very instrument of its power — the army. 

The 300,000 odd men in the army were stationed 
in large fixed camps at suitable intervals on the fron- 

1 That is the number in 23 a.d. ; possibly Augustus at first kept 

a Non-Romans could enlist in the auxilia — the irregular cohorts. 


tier, ready for prompt action at the word from their 
emperor. In Italy itself were quartered nine picked 
cohorts of 1000 each (at first only three actually 
stationed in Rome), the famous Prcetorian Guard 
of the Caesars, a reserve against an invader, a handy 
force for curbing a revolt. For long few recruits 
saving Italians were eligible to this imperial guard. 
It was distinguished by a shorter term of service and 
higher pay than the regular legionaries. Its com- 
mander, the "Prcetorian Prcefect," was naturally 
one of the most important officers of the monarchy; 
and again and again he and his men were to make 
and unmake emperors. 

A Roman legion was a permanent organization 
often with a proud history. It had a number, — like 
a modern regiment, — and usually a name, e.g. the 
"Minervan," the "Constant." Its commander-in- 
chief, a deputy of the emperor, was known as the 
legatus legionis. His regular working subalterns 
were six "Military Tribunes, " commonly young 
men of equestrian or senatorial rank, and with their 
career before them. But probably the fighting 
efficiency of the legion depended on the sixty cen- 
turions (non-commissioned officers), who flogged the 
new recruits into good discipline with their vine- 
stocks, and saved many a battle by their well-trained 
valor. Discipline was stern but not unreasonable. 


The men were in the main humanely treated. There 
was an efficient hospital corps. The yearly pay of 
a common soldier (900 sesterces = $36) seems ex- 
tremely small, but probably sufficed in days of 
very cheap labor. There were promotions and deco- 
rations for the brave and faithful. The accession of a 
new emperor, a victory, or even an imperial birth- 
day usually meant a liberal donativum, — a cash 
bonus to every soldier. In battle the well-aligned 
legionary formation, and the Roman heavy javelin 
and short cut-and-thrust sword usually meant 
prompt success. 

?$This army, in short, was as perfect a military in- 
strument as the world has ever seen. As yet it was 
obedient to its officers and its emperor. It did not 
realize its power to make the civil government the 
mere instrument of its whim. The main criticism 
to be passed on it was that it was too small. Three 
hundred thousand men could hardly suffice to police 
and defend so vast an empire. 

13. The Financial System. — The chief taxes of 
the provincials have already been stated. The 
free Romans boasted themselves exempt from 
" tribute," i.e. direct taxation. Were not they the 
lords, whose cost the subjected world must bear? 
They were nevertheless exposed to a five per cent 
inheritance tax which brought large sums into the 


public coffers. Under the Augustan regime, however, 
the treasury department was divided: the revenues 
of the provinces which the Senate controlled still went 
into the old treasury at the Temple of Saturn by the 
Forum, — the JErariurn. The emperors had their 
special treasury for the income of their own provinces. 
This treasury was the famous Fiscus. Out of it had 
to be paid the army and much of the cost of general 
administration. Some attempt was made to keep the 
Fiscus and the privy income of the emperors separate, 
but under the bad emperors the two were often 
practically confounded. As might have been ex- 
pected, the Fiscus continually gained in importance at 
the expense of the Mrarium, which in time became 
simply the city-treasury of Rome. Controlling the 
Fiscus, however, from the first, the emperor virtually 
disposed of the bulk of the public resources; the 
"vast power of the purse" was his, in addition to 
his formal governmental functions. If he were an 
Augustus, he could pour out his millions on public 
benefactions ; if a Nero, on extravagant private 

14. Religious Revival. — The century before Au- 
gustus had been an unbelieving age. The Roman 
upper classes had substantially adopted the Greek 
philosophy which made the old pagan faith absurd 
to a thinking man. Whether Stoics — holding to a 


high, stern type of nigh puritanical virtue — or Epi- 
cureans — counting well-being the only good, — the 
educated Roman feared neither God nor devil. 
Cicero was a sceptic, Julius Caesar very likely an 
atheist. The untaught multitude still worshipped 
Ra in Egypt, Zeus in Greece, Tarann in Gaul, and 
earned only tolerant contempt from their rulers. 
But Augustus realized that a State without religion 
lacks one of the surest props to morality and patriot- 
ism. His own private beliefs one need not inquire, 
but he deliberately refurbished the old Roman re- 
ligion, and gave its forms at least outward vitality. 
Ancient temples were rebuilt, new ones were erected. 
The Emperor especially professed devotion to the 
glorious sun-king Apollo, to whom he erected a stately 
fane on the Palatine. In 17 B.C. Augustus cele- 
brated the Ludi Sceculares, a solemn festival of great 
pomp, supposedly to come only once in a hun- 
dred years, — a kind of religious consecration of 
his reforms and legislation. For a while at least 
the world became more religious outwardly; and 
gradually we meet that reaction from the unbelief of 
the age of Cicero, until, ere Christianity wins its 
triumph, the dying paganism of the Empire has run 
off into strange excesses of credulity and superstition 
even among the upper classes. 
Along with this religious revival went an attempt 


by Augustus to check the prevailing immorality and 
social disintegration. Divorces were frightfully com- 
mon, 1 and " celibacy was the order of the day." 
Merely to keep up the number of citizens Augustus 
forced a reluctant Senate and people to concur in 
laws putting unmarried men and childless men at a 
disadvantage in receiving legacies, and giving certain 
official preferences and exemptions to the father of 
three lawful children. 2 These laws were very un- 
popular, yet, despite the distrust of moderns in such 
sumptuary legislation, it is possible that Augustus's 
efforts produced some effect, though the moral 
conditions of the millions of his Empire long con- 
tinued indescribably bad. 

15. The Worship of the Emperor. — Not content 
with reviving the formal worship of the old gods, 
Augustus fostered a new cult peculiar to his regime, — 
the worship of the emperor. Already his adoptive 
father, Julius Caesar, had been enrolled — by solemn 
statute — as a divus, entitled to temple, priests, prayer, 
sacrifice, and Augustus could boast himself, while 
still living, as " Son of a Divinity." After Augustus's 
own death, he and each succeeding emperor (who 

1 It was even alleged that Roman ladies reckoned the years not 
by the annual consuls, but by their divorced husbands. 

2 The honors of " A Man with Three Children" were regularly 
bestowed through special dispensation by the later Emperor on 
favorites who could not comply with the law. 


was not declared an infamous tyrant by the Senate) 
was enrolled also as a divus, so that in time there 
arose a regular imperial pantheon. To a servile age 
— especially to the Oriental part of the Empire — it 
seemed natural enough to recognize the wielders of 
such vast power as " divine." Augustus was himself 
awarded practically divine honors by Eastern com- 
munities even while he lived. A hard-headed states- 
man like himself doubtless took this "divinity" at 
true value; but its use in fostering a spirit of loyalty to 
the Empire was not to be overlooked. Swearing by 
the " genius of the Emperor " and offering incense to 
his image became a kind of oath of allegiance to the 
new political order. In the provincial cities a special 
order of priests sprang up, — the Augustales, — de- 
voted to the cult of the emperors. Since freedmen 
were usually excluded from city office, they were often 
elected to this priesthood, the members of which were 
allowed the purple robe and the seat of honor of 
magistrates, thus playing on their vanity and attach- 
ing to the Empire a very influential and wealthy 
class. Also in the different provinces "Councils" 
(Concilia) of the deputies of the different towns were 
allowed to gather for the purpose of common worship 
of the emperors, but also of sending petitions direct 
to Rome of complaint against the local governor. 
In this manner a very mild kind of popular repre- 


sentation was established, and an efficient check 
kept upon the misdeeds of otherwise irresponsible 

16. The Pax Romana ; General Prosperity of the 
Age. — Never had the world known a peace and 
prosperity like that of Augustus. The imperial 
galleys chased pirates from the seas; the armies 
checked brigands by land. Taxation was equitable. 
Litigation before a Roman governor was in the main 
remarkably prompt and just. The result was a great 
development of commercial and material prosperity. 
At Rome Augustus set the example by his building 
policy, changing the city "from brick to marble," 
many great millionnaires of the aristocracy aiding 
him. The city began to become that vast congeries of 
public plazas (ford), parks, halls of justice and trade 
(basilicas) , porticos, theatres, amphitheatres, palaces, 
public and private, which have made imperial Rome 
majestic even after her long ruin. Other cities 
developed in almost similar measure. It was an age 
of mighty pacific improvements. The Roman road 
system — already a network over Italy — began to 
radiate over the whole Empire ; admirable highways, 

— frequently built by the now peaceful legionaries, 

— and even to-day in the deserts of North Africa, 
in the wilds of Asia Minor, where the civilized 
traveller seldom penetrates, maybe found the Roman 



road, its hard stones laid on a solid foundation and 
fitted with extreme nicety, defying the neglect of 
centuries ; ! or across the plain lands or mountains 
on their uncounted stone arches stretched the long 
gray aqueducts, transporting pure water to some 
distant city. 

Commerce expanded by leaps and bounds. A 
great trade passing down the Red Sea sprang up 
with India, merchants from the Empire reaching the 
Malabar coast and Ceylon, and returning with pearls, 
rare tapestries, and spices. There are even rumors of 
an intercourse with China. Another set of traders 
penetrated Arabia for the much-desired incense, or 
into the heart of Africa for ivory. This Oriental 
trade centered at Alexandria, alleged to have been 
a city of 600,000 inhabitants, and where, in addition 
to her commerce, there were countless busy textile, 
glass, and paper (papyrus) manufactories. Antioch, 
beside the shimmering Syrian Orontes, boasted per- 
haps half a million, and was a mighty seat of trade. 
The looms of Tyre, Sidon, and other Syrian towns 
were never idle. Ephesus, with possibly 250,000, 
was a roaring commercial metropolis. Corinth was 
practically her peer. In the West, Carthage in 
North Africa, Lugdunum in Gaul, were centres of 

1 The prime value of these roads was, of course, for the rapid 
shifting of soldiers ; but they were highly useful to commerce as well. 


population, industry, and commerce. Puteoli in 
Italy was famous for its ironwares. The less civil- 
ized West naturally could not produce the manu- 
factures of the East, but it could export lumber, 
pig-iron, tin, wool, and salted fish. The mines of 
Spain sent forth a fair quantity of gold and silver. 1 
Above all, " every road led to Rome." Here, at the 
Eternal City, with its population of one or two 
millions, — all estimates must be vague, 2 — a cos- 
mopolitan multitude jarred and jostled, inhabited 
the thousands of insula (the high tenement houses 
rented by the lower classes), and mingled in every 
form of commerce. There was nothing which it was 
impossible to buy in Rome. Gems, the rare triumphs 
of sculptors, the delicate manufactures of East and 
West, the pettiest wares, cattle, slaves, — everything 
was there. Along the streets entering the Forum 
ran the shops of the lordly bankers whose loans and 
credit system covered the known world, and who 
handled checks, bills of exchange, and joint-stock 
securities almost on a modern scale. 

1 It must be remembered the ancients had nothing like the 
modern supply of precious metals from the United States, Mexico, 
Alaska, South Africa, and Australia. 

2 It is sometimes argued Rome never had over, say, 800,000, — a 
sufficient number to give the impression of a very great city in a day 
without " rapid transit." The evidence for such a low figure seems, 
however, inconclusive. 


No wonder it is — considering this unprecedented 
prosperity — men were willing to assert that the 
Emperor was a god, to swear by his " genius," and 
that travellers from far should seek a sight of him 
as of a present deity. If material prosperity be 
the highest good, that acme was almost reached in 
the age of Augustus. 1 

17. Art and Literature. — In addition to this 
abounding material prosperity, it must be remem- 
bered the Augustan age was that of the full bloom of 
Latin literature: Horace, Ovid, Tibullus, Propertius, 
were among the great poets of this " golden" period. 
Vergil wrote \nsMneid really as a patriotic task, — the 
glorifying of the origins of all-powerful Rome. In a 
similar spirit Livy composed his history of Rome, 
unrolling the long pageant of kings, consuls, and con- 
querors from the mythical beginning to his own day. 
And if Latin letters were at their zenith, fostered 
by the Emperor and his clever adviser, Maecenas, 
Greek letters, and especially Greek art, were by no 
means dead. The sculptors trained in the tradi- 
tions of Pheidias, Scopas, and Praxiteles had indeed 

1 An inscription at Halicarnassus (Asia Minor) praises Augustus 
as "the saviour of humanity, whose Providence fulfilled the prayers 
of all men : land and sea are at peace, and cities flourish in lawful 
government, and prosperity in all things." The poets of the period 
speak of "Age of Gold" as all but at hand, and survey with the 
greatest confidence the future. 


lost much of their originality, and erred on the side 
of over-elaborateness; but they still produced a pro- 
fusion of works of remarkable elegance and grace. 
The amount of sculptured marble hewn out under 
the Empire is incalculable. Especially the art of 
making really vital portrait busts was brought to 
remarkable perfection. These lifelike images of 
the gods, the emperor, the ancient worthies, the 
members of one's own family, were in every private 
palace, every forum. Almost it might be said the 
number of statues of the dead exceeded the number 
of the living. 

18. The Winning and Losing of Germany. — The 
establishment of the Pax Romana did not, of course, 
imply that all restlessness ceased in the less-settled 
provinces. There was still a little fighting required 
in Spain. There were numerous petty kings in Asia 
who needed disciplining. The greater Parthian 
power had to be overawed by a firm display of arms; 
also the task of conquering the great block of land 
comprised by modern Bosnia, Servia, and a part of 
Austro-Hungary, which lay, roughly speaking, be- 
tween the Adriatic and the Danube, had to be com- 

The warlike but ill united and barbarous peoples 
in those regions were brought under the Roman 
yoke after much stout fighting, and Dalmatia, 


Pannonia, Noricum, and Rhaetia were finally en- 
rolled among the provinces. However, along the 
Rhine frontier another problem presented itself, — ■ 
the Germans; and face to face with this hardy folk 
Augustus was to meet his great humiliation. 

Out of the plains and forests of Northern Europe 
and Western Asia, the Germanic peoples — one of 
the last comers into the family of European races — 
had begun to thrust themselves into the Roman 
world, about three generations before Augustus. In 
102 B.C. the defeat of some of their wandering hordes 
by the great Marius had saved Italy from desolation. 
Julius Caesar had hastened his conquest of Celtic 
Gaul partly to anticipate a conquest by the barbarous 
but highly martial Germans, thrusting in from the 
north and east. Dwelling in primitive villages with 
only the rudiments of civilization, obeying war- 
chiefs rather than kings, only uniting their tribes in 
the face of a great emergency, these forest chil- 
dren were nevertheless recognized from the outset 
as dangerous neighbors for the Empire. Moralists 
praised their chaste relations with women and their 
sense of rude honor. Soldiers had long known that 
the tall blond Teutons were, with equal arms and 
discipline, more than a match for the physically 
weaker men of the South. If the provinces of Gaul — 
now recognized as a prime part of the Empire — - 


were to be safe, the German tribes to the east and 
northward — at least as far as the Elbe — must be 
quieted. Then, given a century of peaceful life as 
provincials, the Roman process of assimilation would 
do its infallible work as elsewhere. The Germans 
would become civilized subjects of the Empire, 
happy in its rule, and their military spirit would 
only add to the righting strength of the legions. 

With some such purpose as this, in 12 B.C. Drusus, 
the stepson of the Emperor, was allowed to begin 
four campaigns which seemed to accomplish the 
Roman ambition. Despite the difficulties of naviga- 
tion with his war fleet along the coast to the mouth 
of the Elbe, and of penetrating the almost trackless 
forest and swamp-land, — which then covered the 
northwest of modern Germany, — the task seemed 
accomplished. In 9 B.C. Drusus assumed the title of 
"Subduer of Germany." He had beaten down the 
scattered resistance of the Germanic tribes, and had 
conciliated the good-will of many of their chiefs. On 
his last campaign he died from a fall from his horse, 
— a real event in history, for Drusus was a man of 
tact and capacity. If he had lived to put the firm 
Roman impress on the land he had temporarily 
conquered, the face of all European annals might 
have been changed. 

In the years following Drusus's death his brother, 


Tiberius, conducted some expeditions to complete 
his work; but the Roman armies were more busy 
with the stubborn Marcomanni (in modern Bohemia) 
and with checking somewhat formidable revolts in 
the new Danube provinces, than in garrisoning in 
force the conquests beyond the Rhine. Years passed ; 
it was 9 a.d. Nothing forewarned a terrible dis- 
aster; yet discerning men might have felt that 
Augustus did not use his customary good judgment 
when he sent (probably in 7 a.d.) Publius Varus to 
be governor of Germany. Varus had already ruled 
Syria, and had gained a name (fairly rare under 
the Empire) as an extortionate tyrant. "When he 
went to Syria, the province was rich and he was 
poor; when he left Syria, the province was poor and 
he was rich," we are pithily told. He failed to 
realize that in dealing with a bold, war-loving people 

— overawed for the moment, rather than conquered 

— great consideration was needed in accustoming 
them to the Roman regime. Their chiefs of the 
Chatti and Marsi were not to be treated like cringing 
Damascenes ! But Varus was blind or mad. He im- 
posed heavy taxes; he brought in the whole para- 
phernalia of the Roman law, — that was adapted 
only to a highly civilized community, — gave free 
scope to the chicanery of lawyers and legal processes, 
and outraged the simple Germans by crooked 


decisions; he failed to conciliate the leading chiefs, 
and one of those chiefs — Arminius of the Cheruscan 
tribe — became the centre of a conspiracy against 

Arminius had been honored by the Romans to the 
notable extent of being made an Eques ; but he was 
not to be won over. How much his motives were 
selfish, how much he acted out of patriotic love for 
his tribe and people, no one — on existing evidence — 
can say. There was no lack of discontent, and Varus 
took no steps to allay it. Very masterfully Arminius 
(still playing the friend of Rome) and his fellow-con- 
spirators prepared their countrymen, yet lulled the 
governor into security. With three legions Varus 
had spent the summer at a camp upon the Weser. 
On approach of autumn (9 a.d.) he marched back 
towards the Rhine. Once inside the strong garrison 
towns by the river, all would be secure. But a rumor 
came that a distant tribe had revolted ; Varus resolved 
on a de*tour, to subdue the rebels ere reaching winter 
quarters. Once off the beaten paths, the heavily 
laden legionaries found themselves in direful swamps 
and forests, rendered worse by heavy rains. Even at 
the last, warnings came to Varus that Arminius was 
a traitor. He would not listen. The conspirators 
slipped away. Their bands were ready. A three 
days' battle began, — the battle of the Teutoburg 


Forest} The Romans at first held together, and 
fought their way onward amid great difficulties. But 
Varus was no commander to inspire his men in a 
crisis. The cavalry deserted in a cowardly manner, 
leaving the infantry to their fate. Varus, in despair, 
slew himself. Some of his men made a last gallant 
stand, but everything was lost. Many of the Ro- 
mans yielded as prisoners, only to be sacrificed by 
the victors at the rude altars of their gods. All 
three of the eagles of the legions were taken. The 
Roman detachments in Germany were either de- 
stroyed or driven over the Rhine. In short, it was 
not defeat but annihilation. 

Terrible was the news at Rome. The now aged 
Emperor strained all his powers to assemble new 
legions, lest the victorious Germans cross the Rhine 
into Gaul. Tiberius, the Emperor-elect, hastened to 
the curtailed frontier to reorganize the defences. 
It was hardly necessary. Arminius could not have 
held his disunited countrymen together for a decisive 
attack on Rome. 

In 14 a.d. Augustus died, with the disaster of 
Varus unavenged. Vengeance was to come after a 
manner in the next reign, but not reconquest. The 
year 9 a.d. is a milestone in human annals. In it 
the Roman god Terminus, — the patron genius of the 

1 The place cannot be surely identified. 


frontiers, — so long advancing, was to be turned back. 
Germany was never reconquered. Two and a half 
centuries later it was the Empire itself that was to be 
in peril from invaders out of the province lost by 

19. The Attempt of Augustus to found a Dynasty. 

— Nevertheless, the importance of this loss must not 
be exaggerated. It was a wound to the pride rather 
than to the prosperity of the Empire. During the 
forty-five years between the battle of Actium and his 
death, Augustus enjoyed the sun of success and popu- 
larity almost beyond any other known monarch. 
Only in one great thing he had failure and heaviness, 

— in his private relations and his attempt to found 
a suitable dynasty. 

Theoretically, the principate was no more heredi- 
tary than the old consulship. When the holder of 
such vast power died, it remained for the Senate and 
people — always with the ratification of the formid- 
able army — to choose a new imperator. Augustus 
could not thus deliberately train up a crown-prince 
to succeed him ; and as a sane and foreseeing man he 
surely knew that the next principate after his would 
have a vast deal to do in the destruction or perpetua- 
tion of the institutions he was elaborating. Accord- 
ingly, in an informal way, he undertook to arrange for 
a kind of heirship and succession, rendered the more 


easy because the Roman system of having colleagues 
in almost every office made it possible to associate a 
younger man in one or another of the princeps's func- 
tions, which person could take up the sole burden 
as soon as the older ruler died. It was on some 
such theory and basis as this that Augustus began 

Unluckily, from the outset, he lacked a son. In his 
youth, for political reasons, he had married a step- 
daughter of Marcus Antonius, then had put her away 
after the easy fashion of the times, and wedded 
(again through politics) a certain Scribonia, by whom 
he had (in 39 B.C.) his only child, a daughter, 
the notorious Julia. But in $& B.C. he divorced 
Scribonia also, to contract a marriage which seems 
to have been based on real affection. He married 
the noble and talented Livia, — and with her as his 
Empress he passed his reign, never ceasing to cherish 
her, although she bore him no children. 

But Livia brought him two stepsons, known 
usually to history as Tiberius (born 42 B.C.) and 
Drusus (born 38 B.C.). However, although their 
mother had hopes, Augustus would not designate 
these youths as his successors. He preferred to marry 
his nephew Marcellus — an amiable and popular lad — 
to his daughter Julia (25 B.C.), and showed plainly 
that he intended to introduce him by degrees into 


partnership in the government. This action doubt- 
less displeased Livia, and the Emperor's great minis- 
ter, Agrippa, who might well expect a formal recogni- 
tion of his right to succeed to the imperial power 
which he had done so much to create. But the proj- 
ect came to a tragic end when, in 23 B.C., a stroke of 
malaria carried off the young Marcellus, 1 and set 
all his uncle's schemes awry. 

Augustus yet balked at the adoption of Livia's sons. 
He seems to have had a strong antipathy especially 
for the cold, unresponsive Tiberius. He now married 
his daughter to Agrippa, thus appeasing that pow- 
erful individual, and preparing the way for the suc- 
cession of his own flesh and blood. Three sons and 
two daughters rewarded this union; but in 12 B.C. 
Agrippa — long the chief prop of his friend and 
master — died. Augustus now intended Agrippa's 
two older sons (mere children) for the sovranty, and 
desired to wed Tiberius to their mother — not that 
he might succeed, but to act as the boys' guardian. 
Drusus, the younger stepson, was also in positions of 
trust, and was winning his laurels with the legions in 
Germany. But his death in 9 B.C. removed another 

1 Marcellus is nobly lamented in Vergil's AZneid (bk. vi. 860 ff.) 
though we have no means of knowing whether he deserved all the 
eulogies. Octavia, his mother, gave 10,000 sesterces ($400) per 
line to the poet, as reward for his really moving tribute. 


support in. the imperial house; and Tiberius, dissatis- 
fied with the imperfect recognition given him, and 
probably by the criminal frivolity of the life lived by 
Julia, went into a kind of voluntary exile at Rhodes. 
The young grandchildren were growing to man- 
hood. The succession seemed firmly secured, but 
a fatality followed the house of Augustus. In 2 a.d. 
young Lucius Caesar died ; in 4 a.d. Gaius (his 
brother) perished of a wound received in Armenia. 
The third boy, Agrippa Posthumus, was incorrigible 
and semi-imbecile. The now aged Emperor had 
pinned his hopes on his elder grandsons. The 
fragments of his letters to Prince Gaius show him as 
warming with deep personal affection for these promis- 
ing boys ; now this love and expectation had begotten 
only bitterness. In addition, a new cup of sorrow had 
been already bestowed in 2 B.C. when the Emperor 
learned — what most of Rome had long known — 
that his only daughter and child had been leading a 
life of unblushing and notorious immorality. In 
wrath he banished the luckless Julia to a barren 
island off the coast of Campania. Her lovers were 
exiled. The Emperor never forgave her; and when 
informed that Phcebe, a freedwoman and attendant of 
hers, had committed suicide, was heard to exclaim 
in his bitterness, " Would that I were the father of 
Phcebe rather than of Julia!" 


There was nothing for him now but to select Tibe- 
rius — the man he disliked — for his heir. Tiberius 
was recalled from Rhodes, and in 4 a.d. the Emperor 
caused him to be endowed with the imperial " tribuni- 
cian power," and " adopted" him as his son. "This 
I do for the sake of the commonwealth," said 
Augustus, clearly expressing his own feelings; and 
another time he remarked of his successor, "I 
pity the Roman people being ground under his slow 
jaws!" Yet even now Augustus tried to limit his 
heir's power. Tiberius was required to adopt as his 
son and heir his own nephew, the son of Drusus, 
Germanicus, a winsome and popular young prince, 
who, it might be hoped, would prove a counterpoise 
to his austere uncle. 

The end came to the long reign in 14 a.d. The 
defeat of Varus had been a mighty wound to the aged 
Emperor's pride, the one great failure in his outward 
policy. Rumor had it that Augustus let his beard 
and hair grow long, and would dash his head against 
the walls, crying, "Varus, Varus, give back to me my 
legions!" Yet he maintained his part of the un- 
crowned "first citizen" to the last. The final scene 
was at Nola, the 19th of August, 14 a.d. "If you 
think I have played my part on the stage of life well, 
applaud!" he spoke to the friends gathered at his 
bedside. He had indeed deserved the applause. 


Great in the dazzling sense, as were Alexander, 
Julius Caesar, Napoleon, he was not. But to few 
men has it been given to accomplish more abidingly 
constructive work than he. So he passes — the pre- 
cocious youth, the intriguing politician, the mer- 
ciful, strictly cautious yet successful statesman, and 
builder of the Empire: the first Caesar Augustus. 



i. Tiberius (reign 14 to 37 a.d.) J Internal 
Policy. — A new hand was at the helm of state, 
but not an untried hand. As subordinate, and later 
as colleague of Augustus, Tiberius had learned all 
the processes of the government. He was a pass- 
ing elderly man now, — fifty-five years old, — not 
likely to be affected by youthful giddiness of power. 
All evidence goes to show that he was an adminis- 
trator of no mean order. But the intrigues of the 
court, his semi-banishment at Rhodes, the tardy 
recognition by Augustus, seem to have embittered 
him. He was hard and cynical. He lacked per- 
sonal magnetism : what was worse, he won the hate 
of the cultured literary circle at Rome, — of the 
fine gentlemen of old Republican families, who 
were as yet unreconciled to the new imperial regime, 
and traduced it at every opportunity. Writing after 
their spirit, and drawing upon their literary memoirs, 

the great historian Tacitus (nearly a hundred years 
f 65 


later) has given us a picture of Tiberius unmatched 
for masterly portrayal of a gloomy, unscrupulous, 
bloodthirsty monster. More modern criticism has 
decided that many of the worst charges against the 
second Princeps are unproved, although there is 
much that cannot be explained away. Yet certain 
it is that the twenty-three odd years of his reign were 
years of prosperity and good government for the 
Empire, and if there were tyranny and discontent, 
they existed almost wholly at Rome. 

In his dealings with the Senate — which readily 
confirmed him in the power that Augustus could 
only partially delegate — Tiberius showed at first 
the greatest consideration. He made it a constant 
rule to allow the most important matters to be sub- 
mitted to it for discussion, but more important still, 
he abolished the elections to office by the people (long 
a mere farce with the Forum mob of Rome), and 
allowed the senators to elect to practically all the 
old regular magistracies. 1 Since an election as 
qucestor (finance officer) carried with it a life seat 
in the Senate, the Senate became now a practically 
self-perpetuating body, — possibly dangerous to the 
Princeps, had it possessed the stamina and popular 

1 The Emperor could however greatly influence elections by 
"commending" favored candidates, whom the Senate dared not 


backing to resist him. ' The passing of the old pre- 
tence of ' 'popular elections" seems to have awakened 
no great murmurs. At the same time the ordinary 
method of enacting laws became more and more 
by " Senatus Consulta" — " Decrees of the Senate," — 
without any formal reference to the "people." 
Both of these changes, however, were really outward 
recognitions of what had long been practical facts. 
The governmental machine of Augustus was simply 
being given a logical extension. 

Really of greater importance was the move Tibe- 
rius made at the urgency of his Praefect of the Guard, 
Sejanus (of whom more hereafter) . The whole force 
of Praetorian Guards (9000 men) was now concen- 
trated at Rome in a single large cantonment. 1 
This picked corps — wholly devoted to the Emperor 
— could be relied upon to silence with the sword 
any murmurs against his policy. It was a long step 
towards ending the pretension that the master of 
these swordsmen was only the "First Citizen of the 

2. Tiberius's Foreign Policy; Germanicus. — Tac- 
itus "has put forth his unrivalled powers to pre- 
sent as a foil to the gloomy tyrannical Emperor 
his gallant and beloved adopted son, Germanicus." 
He was only twenty-nine when Tiberius came to 

1 Augustus had only kept one-third of this force in Rome. 


the throne. From the first we are given to under- 
stand that the new Emperor hated him and his 
virtues, and wished to be rid of him. If that were 
the case, Tiberius was exceedingly cautious in mak- 
ing his hate effective. After quelling a formidable 
mutiny in the Gallic legions, Germanicus undertook 
to avenge the death of Varus and to reconquer 
Germany. In 15 and 16 a.d. he made repeated 
campaigns beyond the Rhine and claimed to have 
won decisive victories. The eagles of the lost 
legions were retaken ; the wife of Arminius was 
captured. The scene of the great defeat was visited, 
and the bones of the slain given honorable burial. 
But the conquest of the Germans was a weary work; 
victories over them were mere bolts shot into water. 
The victors had won a bit of swamp or woodland; 
the vanquished had dispersed in the forest. Apart 
from feelings of jealousy, Tiberius may well have 
questioned whether this remote province was worth 
winning back, and again whether the treasury could 
stand the drain of Germanicus's very costly cam- 
paigning. In 17 a.d. Germanicus was recalled to 
Rome and allowed a notable triumph, but Germany 
had not been recovered. Whether — if Germanicus 
had been let alone — he could have done the task, 
is one of the unsolved problems of history. Armin- 
ius, the hero of his country, perished in a private 


feud in 19 a.d.; but the same year saw the death of 
his chief enemy. Germanicus had been sent to the 
East, to regulate the petty kingdoms there. His 
plans were thwarted, however, and his orders defied 
by Piso, governor of Syria, with — it was hinted — 
the secret approval of the Emperor and Livia, the 
powerful Empress-mother. Presently Germanicus 
fell ill at Antioch, and soon died. He believed him- 
self poisoned by Piso, and begged his friends not 
to leave him unavenged. They remembered their 
pledge, and returned with his ashes to Rome, crying 
for vengeance upon the murderer. Piso was forced 
to return to Rome and stand trial before the Senate. 
He trusted that the Emperor would protect him; 
but though the poisoning charge was weak, he could 
not clear himself of the guilt of defying the orders of 
his superior officer. Tiberius refused to shield him 
from the popular clamor demanding vengeance for 
Germanicus, and Piso committed suicide. 

There is no good evidence that Tiberius was 
guilty of thwarting Germanicus's German successes, 
or of plotting his destruction. If he had died in 
19 a.d., he would have enjoyed a brief, colorless, but 
in the main honorable reign. Unluckily, he lived 
many years more, and fell under the influence of his 
evil genius — ^Elius Sejanus. 

3. Sejanus and the Reign of Terror. — It was the 


misfortune of Roman emperors that they did not 
have a competent staff of trained civil servants 
ready to assist them in administering the colossal 
Empire. Augustus had got his noble friends to aid 
him as' best he could; Tiberius — distrustful 
of and distrusted by the nobility — had to use 
humbler ministers, Equites, plebeians, freedmen. 
He found great relief from the burdens of govern- 
ment in the aid of the Praefect of the Praetorians — 
Sejanus. This underling of mere equestrian rank 
first made himself indispensable to the elderly 
Emperor by his zeal, ability, and seeming fidelity; 
then deliberately wrought to achieve his high-soaring 
ambition, — the principate for himself. If the story 
of palace intrigues were the true substance of 
history, the crimes of Sejanus would deserve a 
long volume. The wily minister set about to re- 
move member after member of the imperial family, 
that no obstacle might remain betwixt him and his 
success. In 23 a.d. Drusus, Tiberius's own son, and 
(since the death of Germanicus) the heir-presump- 
tive, died, seemingly by a chance malady. Eight 
years later the dark tale was to come out: how 
Sejanus had seduced the prince's wife, and through 
her could administer the poison. But Tiberius 
did not suspect the murderer. To strike down his 
foes and increase the confidence of the Emperor, 


the Praetorian Praefect pretended to discover con- 
spiracies against Tiberius among the nobility, with 
fearful consequences for the accused. Things grew 
worse when Tiberius — an embittered, sour man, 
who had always felt himself unpopular at Rome — 
retired from the city to the beautiful isle of Capri 
(26 a.d.). Thence, amid a perfect paradise of 
sensuous delights, he sent his orders to the slavish 
Senate at the capital, while Sejanus, as his repre- 
sentative at Rome, enjoyed greater power than ever. 
Most skilfully the indiscretions of every member of 
the imperial family were magnified to the Emperor. 
In 29 a.d. the aged but imperious Empress-mother, 
Livia (of whom Tiberius stood in no slight awe), 
died, and another check fell from Sejanus. Agrip- 
pina — widow of Germanicus — and her sons, Nero 
and Drusus, were disgraced and imprisoned. Se- 
janus began to think himself close now to the throne. 
He received adulation in the Senate; the provincials 
raised altars to him as to a god. He seemed on the 
point of being given "tribunician power" and 
declared the Emperor's colleague; but as a matter 
of fact his master had begun to distrust him, though 
fearing to strike on account of his vast power, espe- 
cially over the guardsmen. In October, 31 a.d., 
the crisis came. Tiberius at Capri was warned of a 
direct plot against himself. Delay would have been 


fatal. A trusted officer — Macro — was hastened 
to Rome with private instructions. The Senate was 
convened early in the morning. Sejanus was lured 
into being present, by being told Macro had been 
sent to ask for him the coveted tribunician power. 
Then a purposely long and wordy letter from the 
Emperor was read, — that Macro might be making 
sure of the fealty of the Praetorians, — but at the 
end the letter demanded the punishment of Sejanus 
and his friends. In a twinkling the senators — 
ready at the beginning of the session to fawn on the 
great minister — shrank from him. He was hur- 
ried to prison. The fickle multitude threw down his 
statues and howled for his blood. He was promptly 
strangled in his dungeon, and his corpse dragged 
by the hook through the streets till it was cast into 
the Tiber. 

Sejanus was dead, but the deeds of cruelty did not 
end with him. The obsequious senators committed 
new crimes in punishing "his friends," — as if it 
were treason to have been friendly to the man the 
Emperor had delighted to honor. Tiberius had been 
rendered fearful and cruel by the discovery of how 
he had been duped by his most trusted confidant. 
He might well distrust all the world. He allowed 
the widow of Germanicus to commit suicide by star- 
vation. Other members of the imperial family 



perished violently, until it is reckoned that the 
whole ruling house was reduced from twenty persons 
to only two or three. Rumor had it that the old 
Emperor was abandoning himself to fearful de- 
bauches at his island villa. Rumor no doubt out- 
ran truth; but one may well guess that Tiberius was 
weary of the sham glamour of power. He felt him- 
self hated, and lonely. What wonder if he tried to 
drink a passing sweetness out of the deadly cup of 
sensuality ? 

At Rome the prosecutions for " treason,' ' i.e. 
lack of respect for the Emperor, or for friendship 
with Sejanus, went on unabated. It was a profit- 
able business to play the accuser (delator), for the 
self-appointed prosecutor in such cases enjoyed a 
share in the confiscated goods of his victim, and often 
a vote of thanks from the Senate, with public honors 
to boot. Many a great noble thus paid the penalty 
for an incautious remark; but less edifying than the 
fearful old man at Capri, than the money-grasping 
delators, was the spectacle of the lordly Roman sena- 
tors striving piteously by their excess of zeal in voting 
prosecutions and condemnations to avert the ruin 
from their own individual heads. The reign of terror 
between the years 31 and 37 a.d. was enough to prove 
the Roman Senate unfit to rule alone. 

Yet one must not exaggerate. The victims were 


mainly in a very exalted but very narrow circle at 
Rome. The provinces continued well governed and 
fairly contented. "A good shepherd shears his 
sheep, but does not flay them," Tiberius had said. 
At a distance from the capital the reign continued 
popular. In March, 37 a.d., Tiberius died at Mise- 
num, on the lovely Campanian coast. He had not 
been in Rome for ten years. He had practically 
adopted Gaius, a surviving son of Germanicus, as his 
heir, but had done nothing officially to arrange for his 
succession. As a ruler of the Empire he is worthy 
of praise; as the tyrant over the Roman aristocracy 
he is worthy of execration. Yet considering his 
natural timidity, betrayal by friends, unpopularity, 
personal isolation, the last feeling for him is one 
of pity. 

4. Gaius (reign 37-41 a.d.). — Gaius, or to use a 
very familiar nickname, Caligula, 1 was the son 
of the well-beloved Caesar Germanicus. He was 
twenty-five years old, and reputed to be of good heart 
and head. The people hailed him with joy, while 
the Senate made haste to vote him all the imperial 
powers. He began his reign with a series of reforms 
and popular acts of vengeance on the delators. For 
eight months he was full of benevolence and mag- 

1 " Little Boots," given him by the soldiers, when his mother was 
in the camp of the German legions. 


nanimity. Then, after a serious illness, he plunged 
suddenly into a course of shamelessness and absurd 
excesses. The plain facts seem to have been that he 
had become mentally unstrung. Perhaps the mere 
pressure of tremendous power had unsettled wits 
that were none too normal at best. A catalogue of 
his follies is not history. To talk of proclaiming 
a favorite horse as consul, to declare himself a god 
and open a temple to himself as Jupiter Latiaris, 1 
to force noblemen and Equites to fight as gladiators, 
to build a bridge of boats across the Gulf of Baiae 
in Campania (for no practical object, but simply for 
childish self-pleasing), — these are samples, yet all 
intermingled with other acts of sheer licentiousness 
and cruelty. "This pretty neck must be cut when- 
ever I please !" he once said jestingly to a consort. 

It speaks well for the firmness of the mechanism 
of the Roman state that it was not hopelessly wrecked 
before the world was saved from this monster by 
the daggers of Chaerea and Sabinus, stout officers 
of the Praetorians, who assassinated him in January, 
41 A.D. 

5. Claudius (reign 41-54); his Government; the 
Winning of Britain. — The murder of Gaius had been 
necessary. The scheme of Augustus provided no 

1 Quite different from allowing mere Orientals to hail him as a 
god, or from proclaiming a dead emperor divine. 


machinery for removing an obviously unfit emperor. 
The climax, however, had come too suddenly; no 
one was prepared. Intense excitement reigned in 
Rome. The " urban cohorts," a kind of municipal 
guard and police, put themselves at the disposal of 
the consuls, who hastily convened the Senate. 
For an instant thoughts were entertained of restoring 
the Republic; the watchword Libertas was given 
out. Then came propositions to choose a new prin- 
ceps, but not from the old Caesarian house. There 
did not lack candidates. Unluckily, the consuls had 
only the urban cohorts, not the more powerful 
Praetorians, at their back, and " while the Senate 
deliberated, the soldiers took action." 

The Praetorians had existed as guards of the 
emperor; they were devoted to the Caesarian house 
and the Caesarian idea. In the palace, as they 
searched for plunder, they found Claudius, younger 
brother of the lamented Germanicus. Fearful for 
his life, he had hidden behind a curtain. Forth 
they dragged him, not to slay, but to proclaim him 
Emperor. Recovering his nerve, Claudius presently 
promised the soldiers 15,000 sesterces each ($600), 
if they would stand by him. The Senate gave up 
its vain discussion when the will of the Praetorians 
was known. Claudius was duly voted all the im- 
perial honors and powers. 


Not an auspicious beginning for a reign, surely, 
yet the reign was not a disastrous one. Claudius 
had been in feeble health in his youth. He had 
been despised as mentally harmless and worthless 
by his relatives. Sejanus and Tiberius had let him 
alone. Gaius's merry court had made fun of his 
stupidity. He had been allowed to be consul, yet 
had enjoyed practically no experience in public life. 
On the other hand, he was a bookish, learned man. 
He had written a ponderous history of the Etruscans, 
had dabbled in philology. 1 He had great venera- 
tion for ancient custom and precedent. He was 
always anxious to live up to the high duties of a 
Caesar, to govern ably and justly, and he did not 
shirk a certain amount of hard routine work. He 
began his reign by pardoning most of the victims of 
Gaius's tyranny, and throughout his reign the pro- 
vincial administration continued mainly in com- 
petent hands. In other words, Claudius proved 
himself a decidedly efficient, if by no means a bril- 
liant, Princeps. 

Besides divers acts extending the Roman franchise 
to a large fraction of Gaul, — a continuation of the 
Romanizing process there long in progress, and 
divers public works of magnitude, — e.g. the dredg- 

1 He invented three new letters for the Latin alphabet, which 
were dutifully used during his reign — then dropped. 


ing and improvement of the mouth of the Tiber, 
to the great betterment of navigation, — the chief 
event in this somewhat prosaic reign was the con- 
quest of Britain. 

Augustus, in his dying advice, had urged that the 
Empire was large enough, and to shun further con- 
quests. Caligula had set this admonition at defiance 
by destroying the native kingdom of Mauretania 
(modern Algiers and Morocco) and reducing the 
country to a province. Claudius ventured a step 
further. Julius Caesar had landed in Britain, but 
the stout resistance of its Celtic inhabitants had 
induced him to withdraw after the promise of a trib- 
ute, which he well knew would never be paid. 
Since then the island had been left in peace; but 
it offered a standing invitation to Roman attack. 
By Claudius's day the legions were relatively un- 
occupied, and the attempt was made. In 43 a.d. 
the army (under the general Plautius) landed; the 
native resistance was beaten down; Claudius him- 
self was hurried overland to the island to be pres- 
ent at the decisive battle, — a carefully arranged 
victory (43 a.d.). He was only on the island six- 
teen days, but could boast of doing what his great 
predecessor had attempted and failed. The Romans 
held Britain for three hundred and fifty years. At 
first they grasped only the tribes of the South. It 


was two generations before the whole of modern 
England was theirs. But with a foothold once 
firmly gained, the ultimate conquest of the British 
tribes was certain. 

6. The Rule of Claudius's Wives and Freedmen. — 
If, however, Claudius was by no means a failure as 
a monarch, his rule had grave defects. More than 
any emperor before him, he was ruled by his wives 
and his freedmen. A Caesar had no difficulty in 
obtaining valiant generals and experienced pro- 
vincial governors of good family to serve him, but 
it was otherwise with secretarial posts at Rome. 
A noble of lofty lineage would consider these menial, 
— mere stewardships of a superlatively great prop- 
erty owner ; and Claudius — like Tiberius — was 
obliged to depend upon men of very humble rank 
to fill them. Being himself of no great strength of 
character, he allowed the reins of the government at 
Rome to fall largely into the hands of his freedmen. 
The result was that Narcissus, Pallas, and other ex- 
slaves for a while were far more important than the 
consuls. They were by no means incompetent 
administrators; but they certainly used their op- 
portunities for self-enrichment. Narcissus accu- 
mulated the then enormous fortune of 400,000,000 
sesterces ($16,000,000) ; 1 Pallas was hardly poorer. 

1 The actual modern purchasing power of such a sum may be 
set at three to five times this figure. 


Mighty was the inward wrath of the haughty nobles 
of the capital at seeing the power lodged in the hands 
of creatures who had once been sold in the market 
along with kine and asses. Yet the servile Senate 
did not hesitate to heap honors on them; an 
unblushing attempt was even made to trump up a 
genealogy for Pallas, tracing his line back to the 
ancient Arcadian kings. So lofty was this high 
minister that he once asserted that he never deigned 
to give an order verbally to his slaves, but only com- 
municated by signs or by writing. 

The power of these freedmen, however, depended 
entirely on a masters will; and Claudius's will 
was particularly controlled by his wives. Twice 
he was married, twice divorced ; then — before he 
became emperor — he wedded the beautiful yet 
infamous Messalina. Over the good-natured, yield- 
ing Emperor she for some years ruled almost ab- 
solutely, using her influence to destroy cruelly any 
nobleman who won her hatred, and at the same 
time indulging in almost incredible deeds of prof- 
ligacy and shame. Her weak husband — almost 
alone of all the world — never realized her iniquities. 
Her position at court was strengthened by her bearing 
to Claudius two children, — the boy Britannicus, 
and the girl Octavia. But the secretary, Narcissus, 
who had long connived at her intrigues and pun- 


ishments, at length began to fear for himself as 
the next victim. Her ruin came in 48 a.d. , when, with 
bold ostentation, she actually went through a kind of 
marriage ceremony with one of her lovers, a young 
nobleman, Silius. Narcissus could now act. He 
convinced Claudius that Messalina would never 
have dared this deed had she not intended to de- 
prive the Emperor himself of power and life. Clau- 
dius hesitated, but Narcissus, on his own responsibil- 
ity, ordered the execution. Messalina perished, and 
Claudius, when told that she was dead, demanded 
another wine cup, and never spoke of his wife again, 
nor ever took any measures against Narcissus. 

The Emperor, however, could not remain unmar- 
ried. After infinite intrigue among the leading freed- 
men, Agrippina the Younger, Claudius's own niece, 
and the candidate of Pallas for the honor, was pre- 
ferred. She was a bold, able, ambitious, and withal 
absolutely unscrupulous woman, not better than 
Messalina, but gifted with more self-restraint. It 
took a special decree of the Senate to allow her to 
marry her uncle. 1 Once fairly wedded, however, 
she showed herself able to exercise a power hardly 
wielded by any previous woman in Rome. She 
openly sat beside Claudius when he received foreign 
envoys. Her head — by order of the Senate — was 

1 Such unions had been hitherto forbidden by Roman law. 


struck on coins. She interfered constantly in public 
business. All this, nevertheless, could not satisfy 
her. The heir to the purple was Messalina's son, 
— the young prince Britannicus. With a hideous 
skill she contrived to deprive him of his birthright 
and bring the Empire to her own son by an earlier 
marriage, — Lucius Domitius. 

The first step was to get the pliable Emperor to 
adopt Domitius as his own son, under the name 
of Nero (50 a.d.). Nero was older than Britan- 
nicus. The younger prince was kept in the back- 
ground, while Nero was thrust into the public eyes 
and received official honors. He was betrothed to 
his cousin, Octavia. Officers friendly to Britanni- 
cus's claims were displaced. Finally, when Agrip- 
pina found Narcissus inclined to work against her, 
and urging upon Claudius to recognize the rights 
of his own son, she and her confederate, Pallas, 
acted boldly. In October, 54 a.d., Claudius was 
poisoned — according to the usual story — by eat- 
ing a dish of carefully prepared mushrooms. Nar- 
cissus was absent from the court at the moment. 
Everything had been made ready, and Nero was 
proclaimed imperator by the Praetorians ere any- 
thing could be done for Britannicus. 

7. Nero (54-68 a.d.) ; the Years of Good Gov- 
ernment. — The crime had been Agrippina's, not 


Nero's. He was only seventeen years old, and 
appears to have been a handsome, talented, and by 
no means bad-hearted lad, from whom there was 
much to hope. He was much under the influence 
of his tutor, Seneca, — a wealthy philosopher and 
literary magnate, — who professed a high type of 
Stoicism that has much superficial resemblance to 
Christianity. Nero was deeply indebted also for 
his throne to Burrhus, — the Praetorian Praefect, — 
a bluff, practical, and fairly honest soldier, who 
could be relied on to use his power for the best. 
The dull and ungainly Claudius was not lamented. 
Young Britannicus was ignored. The world be- 
lieved that, with Seneca and Burrhus to guide him, 
Nero would prove a princeps equal to Augustus. And 
as a matter of fact, so for a while events indicated. 
The first five years of Nero's reign were his famous 
Quinquennium 7 — a time of " virtuous and able 
government." Of course the real rulers were Seneca 
and Burrhus, assisted by the better men of the 
Senate. The provinces prospered. Abuses were 
cleared away. Taxes were lightened. Nero was 
the most popular of emperors. 

Yet though the world knew it not, the young Em- 
peror was developing traits which gave great solici- 
tude to his tutors and ministers. In a position of 
obscurity Nero would have been a mediocre poetaster 


and art critic. He was not naturally cruel. He 
was not more licentious than many a man of his 
time. But he was keenly alive to aesthetic and ar- 
tistic influences; the old pagan adoration of "the 
Beautiful," as totally dissevered from " the Moral," 
appealed to him, and his preceptors never taught 
him high standards of righteousness and duty. Un- 
der these circumstances it was natural enough that 
he should indulge in low amours, in magnificent 
but voluptuous revels, or spend his time idling away 
at bad poetry, when he might have been learning 
how to steer the State. Probably as yet he had not 
realized how great was the power lodged in the hands 
of the princeps, and how to use it for full self-grati- 
fication. One trait he had which was not at first 
obvious, — a keen sense of fear. And cowardly 
fear, rather than inherent viciousness, dragged him 
on from crime to crime, until "Nero" has become 
the synonym for vile tyranny. In 55 a.d. the 
well-attested rumor spread that the Emperor had 
destroyed his adoptive brother, Britannicus, by poison. 
8. Nero; the Tyranny. — The charge was true. 
In striking down Britannicus Nero had not so much 
dreaded this helpless lad as his own mother, Agrip- 
pina, the woman who had given him the principate. 
Agrippina had expected to govern the Roman 
world through her son, the nominal Emperor. She 


soon found that Seneca and Burrhus had far more 
influence over Nero and over affairs of state than 
herself. There were stormy scenes. The relations 
of mother and son became strained. Before Agrip- 
pina's power had waned, she had caused Narcissus, 
Britannicus's friend, to be put to death; but now 
her own chief confederate, Pallas, was disgraced 
and banished from court. Imprudently she boasted 
that Britannicus was the true heir. She even hinted 
she might pull down her ungrateful son by blood, 
and put her stepson in his place. There is no proof 
that Nero consulted his two chief ministers as to 
what he contemplated. It is to be hoped that, as 
honorable men, they would have warned against the 
deed. More likely, on his own responsibility, he had 
the poison bowl passed to the luckless young prince 
at a great court banquet. 

This was the first step. Nor is it needful to trace 
all the stages of degeneracy in a character not at the 
outset hopelessly depraved. To tell the truth, it 
required an unusually steady head not to be turned 
by the consciousness of the almost illimitable power 
of an emperor. It was impossible for Burrhus and 
Seneca to hold their protege in leading-strings, or 
to keep his personal folly from interfering in the 
government. In 59 a.d., after temporary reconcilia- 
tions, and a clumsy attempt at privy murder which 


did not succeed, Nero had his mother openly slain 
by swordsmen, with only a hollow pretence that 
she was conspiring against him. Seneca — compro- 
mising surely with his conscience — wrote the let- 
ter for Nero by which he justified the deed to the 
Senate. But in 62 A.D. — after his own power 
at court had been long waning — Burrhus, Sen- 
eca's chief supporter, died (poisoned by Nero, ran 
the rumor), and Seneca himself went into retire- 
ment in fear of his life. Already a new power had 
appeared on the scene, the proverbially beautiful 
and licentious Poppaea Sabina, who — as unscrupu- 
lous as other imperial women — urged on the en- 
tangled Emperor to put away Claudius's daughter, 
the noble Octavia, first to banish her, later to cause 
her death ; after which Poppaea — for some time a 
mistress — could be proclaimed his wedded consort 
and "Augusta." 
The story of the later foul deeds and conspiracies, 

— of how Seneca perished, thanks to an abortive 
plot of his kinsmen; of how, driven mad by fear, 
Nero passed from crime to crime, sending the dreaded 
centurion now to this, now ever to another palace 
of a great noble, with orders for the master thereof 
to "open his veins" (commit suicide by bleeding), 

— this is part not of history but of mere court 
annals. Yet it is worthy of notice that down to 


nearly the end the Emperor kept the loyalty fairly 
well of the legions, of the provinces, and of the city 
multitude, — thanks largely to his open-handed 
policy of scattering donatives to the soldiery and 
presenting free games and festivals to the masses. 
The staid Roman aristocrats were fearfully scan- 
dalized by the sight of Nero, the head of the Em- 
pire, appearing personally on the stage as a concert 
singer; but it made him popular with the thousands, 
and should be reckoned among the least of his sins. 
From one grave charge he is probably free. In 
64 a.d. a terrible fire devastated Rome. The city 
had been carelessly and ill built. The conflagra- 
tion lasted six days ere it could be checked. About 
half of the capital had been destroyed. A rumor 
among the homeless multitude made it that the Em- 
peror had ordered the fire to gratify himself with 
an exciting spectacle. The evidence for this is in- 
sufficient. On the contrary, Nero appears to have 
done all in reason to check the fire, and afterward 
to aid the sufferers and rebuild the devastated city. 
But popular wrath demanded scapegoats, and to 
satisfy the clamor the adherents of an obscure and 
hated Jewish sect, the Christians, were arrested and 
a large number of them burned in the Emperor's 
gardens, as the alleged authors of the calamity. 1 

1 The question of the relations of the early Christians to the 
Roman government is taken up in Chapter IV, p. 168. 


It was high time, by 68 a.d., however, that this evil 
reign should end. Nero was no longer surrounded 
by good administrators. The chief minister, Ti- 
gellinus, was worse than his master. Misgovern- 
ment was beginning to harm the whole Empire. In 
Gaul the governor, Vindex, began a revolt, but the 
loyal legions destroyed him. In Spain, however, 
another governor, Galba, declared himself Emperor, 
and support soon came to him from every hand. 
At Rome the Praetorians refused to sustain their 
tyrant longer. In June, 68 a.d., seeing all was lost, 
Nero tried to flee the city. The Senate, plucking 
boldness, declared Galba to be Princeps, and pro- 
claimed Nero an outlaw. He was run to bay at a 
villa four miles from Rome, and stabbed himself 
just as his pursuers were about to seize him. He 
was not the demon sometimes pictured, but he had 
been absolutely unfitted from the outset to be 
emperor. With him the old line of the Julii — 
even with its adoptive branches — had ended. 
Poison, the executioner's sword, early and sudden 
death, had cut off all of a great family. If the 
principate was to continue, it must needs be per- 
petuated from some less famous stock. 

9. The Anarchy, 68-69 a.d. — The death of Nero 
brought a severe testing to the whole fabric of Au- 
gustus. Nero's years of misrule, favoritism, extrava- 


gance, had depleted the treasury and were beginning 
to put awry most of the machinery of provincial 
government. A serious national insurrection existed 
in Judea; conditions were ripe for another uprising 
among the Northern Gauls, and the Germans settled 
west of the Rhine. There was no regular succession 
to the principate. Galba, proclaimed by the Spanish 
legions, was an aged man, reputed moderate and ex- 
perienced; but by January, 69 a.d., he had disgusted 
the Praetorian Guard at Rome by his parsimony and 
insistence on strict discipline. The guardsmen 
— quite debauched by Nero's lax control — readily 
declared for Otho, an " elegant debauchee," a man 
without conscience or morality, although not lacking 
in a certain capacity. On the 15th of January, 
69 a.d., Galba was murdered by his soldiery, and 
Otho, proclaimed by the troops, was accepted by the 
cowed senators. But the legions in the provinces 
were by no means minded to let the Praetorians be 
the sole emperor-makers. The powerful Rhenish 
legions promptly declared their chief, the incom- 
petent and proverbially gluttonous Vitellius, as 
Emperor, and directed their march on Italy. 
And so after nearly a century of peace the Empire 
was rent by civil war. If Vitellius himself was with- 
out capacity, he had skilful lieutenants. A great 
battle at Cremona in Northern Italy was in his 


favor. Otho still had a body of loyal troops, but 
despairing of the issue, and perhaps tired of a life 
out of which he had sucked every form of pleasure, 
he committed suicide. 

From April to December (69 a.d.) Vitellius — 
his rough German legionaries giving the law to the 
trembling Senate — played the imperator at Rome, 
but not in the Eastern provinces. Another general, 
Vespasian, leader of the armies in the Orient, 
had been acclaimed as sovran by his soldiery, even 
as Vitellius was entering the capital in triumph. 
A second fierce and bloody civil war followed. The 
fighting only ended when the advance leaders of 
Vespasian's army penetrated to Rome itself, forced 
their way into the city, and destroyed the Vitellians 
in their last stand inside the fortified barracks of 
the Praetorians. Vitellius was captured and hewed 
in pieces by the enraged conquerors, and the impe- 
rial city — at least in part of its quarters — endured 
all the horrors of a sack. 

10. Vespasian (69-79 a.d.). — This civil war, 
the " first anarchy," as it has been sometimes called, 
was a fearful revelation of the power of the army. 
Now at length, as the ancient historian well says, 
the soldiers learned that emperors could be made 
elsewhere than in Rome. Not the high-born lords 
of the Senate, the millionnaire Equites, the multi- 


tudes of proud " citizens," but a few tens of thou- 
sands of ignorant swordsmen, often Germans from the 
Rhine, or Syrians from the Euphrates, hardly under- 
standing Latin, ignorant of the Graeco-Roman cul- 
ture, gave and took away the authority to control the 
destinies of seventy millions of men. A stern yet 
tactful hand alone could control this irresponsible 
army, which was becoming ever more conscious of 
its strength. The time had not yet come when 
military insurrection would be the order of the day; 
but the need of humoring the army by relaxations 
of discipline, increase of pay, and frequent donatives, 
was increasingly evident through the next century; 
and nothing more illustrates an inherent defect of 
the Roman society than the inability of the pro- 
vincials and Italian population to save themselves 
from being trampled over and disposed of by rela- 
tively small armies of professional soldiers. 

Yet for the hour the danger passed. Titus Flavius l 
Vespasianus was a man of relatively poor and humble 
birth who had risen to high command, thanks to his 
integrity and military capacity. He had been almost 
ruined once because he fell asleep in the theatre, 
at a time when Nero had been exhibiting "his divine 
voice" before a courtly and applauding audience. 

1 Hence this reign and the next two following are often called 
the time of the " Flavian Caesars." 


But the dangerous revolt of the Jews had forced even 
the tyrannous Emperor to select a competent general 
to reduce them, and Vespasian had been chosen. 
When sovrans were being pulled down and set up in 
the West, his Eastern legions had proclaimed him 
and fought for him. Fortune gave him the purple, 
and he kept it till his natural death. In the main he 
had deserved his good fortune. There was nothing 
splendid in his policy, but he deliberately, with busi- 
ness thoroughness, went to work to repair the wrecks 
of Nero's reign and of the anarchy. A serious up- 
rising of the North Gallic and German tribes, headed 
by Civilis, chief of the warlike Batavians, at first 
menaced the peace of the Empire along the Rhine; 
but by 71 a.d. the imperial generals had crushed it. 
Titus — the Emperor's son — soon, as will be seen, 
stamped out the Jewish revolt. The Roman arms 
made steady progress in Britain. At Rome, by 
skilful concessions to the dignity of the Senate, 
Vespasian restored pleasant relations between the 
sovran and the nobility, without impairing his own 
power. A series of magnificent public buildings 
(e.g. the temple of the Capitol burned in the Civil 
War, the Flavian Amphitheatre, 1 a new Forum, etc.) 

1 Known usually by its mediaeval name, the Colosseum. This 
vast building could probably seat about 45,000 persons, with 
standing room for 5000 more on the roof; not 87,000, as some- 


added to the splendor of the imperial city. The 
legions were brought back into discipline. The pro- 
vincial administration — much disordered now — 
was reformed. The empty treasury was refilled by 
strict economy and a better application of the 

Not brilliant achievements these, but things very 
necessary for the Empire, and it is to Vespasian more 
than to any other one man that we owe the fact that 
the world continued with substantial prosperity 
for about a century more. Nor is it slight praise 
for him, that with his coming to power, with his love 
of homely virtues and hatred of shams, life in the 
upper circles of society — taking its example from 
the Palatine — became simpler and somewhat more 
moral; and we hear considerably less of those as- 
tounding acts of extravagance, of those proverbially 
voluptuous banquets and displays so frequent in 
the earlier Empire. 1 

times estimated. A famous prophecy was current in the Middle 
Ages : — 

" While stands the Colosseum Rome shall stand ; 
When falls the Colosseum Rome shall fall ; 
And when Rome falls, with her shall fall the world." 

A tribute to the greatness of Rome and of this amphitheatre ! 

1 Yet the worldly wisdom of Vespasian must not be exaggerated. 
Once an inventor offered him a machine for lifting very cheaply 
certain huge columns for the new temples. The Emperor would 


ii. The Jewish War and Destruction of Jerusalem 
(66-70 A.D.). — The reign of Vespasian saw the practi- 
cal end of the Jews as a territorial nation ; henceforth 
they were simply to remain a peculiar race dispersed 
over the wide earth. The Romans had established 
their supremacy over Judea in 63 b. c. , when Pompeius 
the Great took Jerusalem and reduced it to tribute. 
Herod the Great had reigned from 40 B.C. to 4 a.d. as 
a Roman vassal-king, hated by his subjects for 
his cruelty and because he was not a true Jew, but 
rather an Idumean. After his death the bulk of 
Palestine had been reduced to the status of a Roman 
province of the minor order, under imperial procura- 
tors ; although divers princes of the Herodian house 
preserved small territories, their boundaries fre- 
quently shifted. In the main the Romans had 
treated their uneasy subjects with marked consid- 
eration; their religious feelings were honored, e.g. 
Gentiles were carefully excluded from the inner 
courts of the Temple at Jerusalem, and a Roman 
soldier who tore up a roll of the "Law" was executed. 
But nothing could pacify the pride of this small but 
haughty nation and reconcile it to the Gentile yoke. 
The question thrust on Jesus, "whether it were law- 

not use it, saying, "Suffer me to find livelihood for the poor." i.e. 
by working at the common derricks. The regular argument of 
short-sighted wiseacres against machinery ! 


ful to pay tribute to Caesar?" was one earnestly 
debated throughout Palestine, with an increasing 
emphasis upon the negative. In 66 a.d., thanks to 
some blunders by the incompetent officials sent out 
by Nero, the popular wrath came to a head. The 
Roman governor, Gallus, was repulsed with loss from 
before Jerusalem; the " Zealots, " the most radical and 
fanatical portion of the nation, assumed control of 
the local government. Moderate men were removed 
by assassination, and by the end of the year the little 
Jewish province was prepared to brave all the power 
of the Roman Empire. 

Thanks to its association with Biblical matters, this 
last stand of the Jews possesses great human interest, 
an interest increased by the personal narrative we 
have from Josephus, one of the leaders of the Jewish 
resistance; but from the standpoint of a Roman, 
the revolt, though a formidable one, was hardly more 
important than the similar uprising of Civilis on the 
Rhine. There never was any doubt of the issue after 
Vespasian was sent to the East in 67 a.d. with three 
regular legions and a strong corps of auxiliaries. In 
68 a.d. he had reduced Galilee and about all the 
revolted country in the North, in spite of the desperate 
resistance of many hill fortresses. In 69 the cam- 
paign rested, for Vespasian was busy winning the 
Empire. In 70 a.d. the new Emperor's eldest son, 


Titus, invested Jerusalem. The horrors of the siege, 
the unavailing attempts to get the Jews to capitulate, 
the civil strife within the walls, the awful famine, 
the final storming of the defences, and the plundering 
and burning of the Temple (70 a.d.) have become 
proverbial. The case had been hopeless almost 
from the start, for Jerusalem had not a single ally 
or hopes of succor. The Jewish nation seemed 
for the moment blotted out. Thousands of captive 
insurgents were put to death or sold into slavery. 
Many, taken to Rome as captives, probably worked 
to build the Flavian Amphitheatre. Titus returned 
to Rome to enjoy a splendid triumph, and sculptured 
upon the arch erected in his honor is still to be seen 
the seven-branched candlestick snatched from the 
Holy of Holies of the burning Temple. 

12. Titus (reign 79-81 a.d.). — Vespasian died in 
79 A.D. "I think I am becoming a god! " he re- 
marked cynically upon his death-bed, referring to the 
practice of deifying departed emperors. His eldest 
son, Titus, had already been admitted to a share in his 
power, and was proclaimed by the Senate and army 
amid great satisfaction. The new Princeps was a 
victorious soldier, genial, generous, popular. He 
was reputed to have declared that " he had lost a day " 
in which he did not do some kindly deed. The only 
Striking event in his reign was the overwhelming of 


the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum on the 
Campanian coast by the sudden awakening of the 
volcano Vesuvius (79 a.d.). This event, perhaps, 
has given the modern age its best knowledge of an- 
cient civilization, thanks to the uncovering of these 
buried cities. Titus was immensely beloved for the 
moment. " The delight of the human race," so at 
least his courtiers called him. Whether he would 
have kept his popularity through a long reign is some- 
what doubtful, but the matter was never tested. 
After a rule of only two years, he found himself 
sinking upon an untimely death-bed. He had no 
son, and Roman sentiment would never have allowed 
his daughter to receive his power. The principate 
therefore fell to his younger and less popular 
brother, Domitian. 

Sixty-seven years had now elapsed since the death 
of Augustus. His system of actual monarchy under 
semi-republican forms had been maintained almost 
intact. Under Domitian, however, was to come a 

13. Domitian (reign 81-96 a.d.) ; the Principate 
changing to Outward Absolutism. — The new Em- 
peror was another of those unfortunate rulers who 
incurred a bad name among posterity largely because 
he failed to conciliate the literary-minded, history- 
writing aristocracy of the capital. But no plea can 



entirely clear him of being a gloomy-minded, timor- 
ous, and hence cruel despot of the type of Tiberius 
rather than of Nero. He was a younger son of 
Vespasian; his father and elder brother had not un- 
justly distrusted him, and kept him in the public 
background. Now stress of circumstances raised 
him to the principate. Like many an emperor, he 
began his reign well. He was thirty years old, and 
seemed past the unsteady years of youth. He af- 
fected a complaisant policy towards the Senate. He 
suppressed the "delators" (the busy prosecutors of 
deeds or mere words against the Emperor), saying 
wisely of this worthless tribe, "The princeps who 
does not suppress them encourages them." The 
provincial administration was again overhauled for 
its betterment. A series of useful laws for the or- 
dering and policing of the capital were put in force. 
But Domitian had all the traits and ambitions of an 
absolute sovran, and it took only a little to make 
him give the pretended share of the Senate in the 
government a blow from which it never recovered. 
He rapidly became first unpopular, then cruel, finally 
hated, and the victim of the dagger. 

Probably the chief adverse influence was his want 
of military success. His father and brother had 
been highly fortunate generals. He himself had 
less skill or more doughty enemies. In 83 A.D. he 


became engaged with a German tribe, the Chatti, 
along the Rhine, and won only very doubtful vic- 
tories. Too proud to confess at Rome his failure, 
he is alleged to have celebrated a sham triumph and 
to have assumed the proud name of Germanicus, 
although the facts about his alleged victories were 
presently rumored about. Again he found a formida- 
ble foe along the Danube in the Dacians, 1 and being 
unable to subdue them, was actually compelled to a 
humiliation no Roman leader had undergone before. 
To secure peace he bestowed on the enemy "pres- 
ents," which a hostile critic could readily describe as 
"tribute." After the close of the Dacian war (90 
a.d.) he gave way to a career of cruelty and oppres- 
sion which only ended with his death. 

But Domitian did more than give free scope again 
to the delators, thus causing many a noble Roman 
to perish for alleged conspiracy against his power. 
He habitually acted in defiance of the Senate, and 
with deliberate attempt to humiliate it. Hitherto, 
though as an extraordinary measure, several em- 
perors had assumed the title of Censor, and in 
virtue of that old Republican office had removed 
unworthy senators and installed new ones, but they 
had always laid down this office at the end of a set 
period. The Senate had consisted still of ex-office- 

1 See p. 106 for the nature of this powerful enemy and their fate. 


holders, not of the Princeps's direct appointees, and 
such being the case, the body was able to preserve 
a certain spirit of independence as against him. But 
it was reserved for Domitian to assume the office of 
Censor for life. By virtue of this authority he was 
able to remove and appoint senators at his own 
sweet will, and the whole body became completely 
dependent upon him. It was vain to talk of a "joint 
rule" when any senator who displeased the sovran 
could be summarily struck from the official " album." 
Hereafter, although one meets with the Senate 
for centuries yet, it was only an emasculated body, 
actually helpless before the whim of the avowed 
monarch. 1 

Again Domitian in 84 a.d. caused himself to be 
voted into the consulship for ten years, as if he in- 
tended to add that famous magistracy to his attri- 
butes; he summoned Equites to his private state 
council {concilium) to show his small regard for 
senators; he allowed his officials to address him as 
Dominus et Deus (Lord and Divinity), as if he 
were an Oriental despot ; he went abroad habitually 
in purple robes of triumph, and with a pomp and 
circumstance carefully shunned by the less preten- 
tious "first citizens" of the earlier principate. 

1 Of course ex-magistrates still became senators, save when the 
Emperor directly intervened. 


To make certain of the support of the army, which 
he had failed to lead to victory, and which must 
be his stay against the sullen Senate, he increased 
the pay by one-third. Perhaps a just measure; but 
again it was a step looking to that close alliance of 
imperator and soldiery on which the later Empire 

It was a dreary epoch, — the last decade of Domi- 
tian. Agricola, the conqueror of North Britain, had 
been summoned home in 85 a.d. — it is alleged 
through the jealousy of Domitian — just as he was 
about to conquer Caledonia (modern Scotland). In 
93 a.d. the able general died, — not without rumors 
of poisoning by a despised master. Less doubtful 
were other crimes fastened upon the despot, the most 
illustrious victim being, perhaps, Flavius Clemens, his 
cousin, and probable heir to the Empire. 1 Any man 
whose riches gave a chance for the harpies of the 
imperial household was liable to some accusation. 
The Emperor himself — suspicious, hated, and hating 
— was becoming as cruel as Nero, without Nero's 
splendor and prodigality, which had charmed the 
mob. The financial necessities of the treasury led 
Domitian to join even with the delators in attacking 
perfectly harmless men for the division of their goods 
betwixt accuser and the Fiscus. 

1 There has been some attempt made to show that Clemens per- 
ished because he was a Christian. 


At length those closest to the Emperor felt alarmed 
for their own safety. His wife was privy to a conspir- 
acy which several imperial freedmen shared. In 
September, 96 a.d., Domitian died much as Marat, 
the famous French Revolutionist, died, — from a blow 
of a dagger wielded by a pretended revealer of a plot, 
who demanded a private interview, then stabbed his 
victim. There were few to mourn the dead man. 
He was indeed somewhat popular in the army, which 
he had enriched; but in the Senate there was an 
indecent haste to " condemn his memory," to order 
the tearing down of his statues, and the erasure of 
his name from every public monument and docu- 
ment, while his body was given a pauper's burial. 

14. Nerva (96-98 a.d.) ; the Beginning of the 
"Good Emperors." — The conspirators had already 
planned for the next reign. Domitian left no son, and 
the Senate readily acquiesced in the choice of Marcus 
Nerva, an aged nobleman of experience and culture. 
He was himself of the old senatorial class, and imbued 
with its prejudices. He promptly took a solemn oath 
never to put a senator to death, and he consulted the 
Senate deferentially on all occasions. His rule was 
studiously moderate. It was complained that he was 
too lenient, in refraining from punishing the creatures 
of Domitian; but he lacked the energy and prestige 
to control the army, and accordingly took one of 


the wisest steps ever made by a Roman ruler, — he 
adopted as his son and colleague in power, Marcus 
Ulpius Trajanus, perhaps the ablest and best general 
and administrator to be found in the whole imperial 
line. The adoption had only been ratified a few 
months when Nerva died (January, 98 a.d.). 

Nerva was the first of the so-called "Five Good 
Emperors," and his reign brought in an era of great 
seeming prosperity. For several reigns following, the 
princeps was to be chosen not by hereditary right 
(these emperors, all but the last, died without sons), 
nor by arbitrary election on the part of the people 
or of the army, but through each ruler's making 
painful choice of an experienced coadjutor, then 
adopting that person, and bequeathing to him the 
government. It is worth noticing that this system 
worked, on the whole, admirably until there came a 
princeps who could not resist the temptation to leave 
the throne to his eldest son. The result then was 
to give the Empire its first really bad ruler after 

15. Trajan (98-117 a.d.). — The reign of Trajan is 
worthy of extended notice, yet, thanks to the failure 
of our literary remains, it is hard to trace a satisfactory 
outline. He was a native, not of Italy, but of Italica, 
a Roman colony-town of Southern Spain, and with 
him the provinces of the Empire to a certain extent 


came to their own. He was a trained soldier, ana 
beloved by the army, which he held down with a firm 
but just discipline. He was now in the prime of life, 
and his reign marks an epoch of internal regeneration 
and foreign conquest which that of no later emperor 
could rival. " May you be fortunate as Trajan !" 
was a regular acclamation to later Caesars upon their 
assuming power. 

The new Princeps was not a soldier merely. Not 
a man of letters himself, he understood the worth of 
true culture, and encouraged literature and the arts. 
His was the " Silver Age" of Latin literature, the 
age of the historian, Tacitus, and of the genial letter- 
writer, Pliny the Younger, — authors who hail him 
as the " restorer of freedom" after the tyranny of 
Domitian. He posed again as the " first citizen," not 
as the " master." His freedmen were kept in due 
bounds, and did not offend by their insolence. The 
Senate was again humored by being allowed to de- 
bate and advise on all matters, although Trajan did 
not repudiate actually many of the encroachments 
on its authority taken by Domitian. Again the so- 
called "free towns" in the provinces and in the whole 
of Italy had been falling under the evils of local mis- 
government. Trajan took a step towards centralizing 
imperial authority by sending to divers communities 
curators, — his own officers clothed with a power to 


meddle in local affairs, a measure which, while use- 
ful for the moment, nevertheless hinted towards the 
ending of local freedom. 

The financial administration of the Empire was 
strict and successful ; and thanks to his conquests, 
Trajan was able to distribute large donatives among 
the army and populace at Rome, which made his 
rule highly popular. In the provinces we find traces 
of the rule of a monarch kindly, intelligent, very anx- 
ious to justify his power by the good government 
he affords mankind. Extortionate proconsuls were 
tried before the Senate, and forced to disgorge. 
The " Senatorial" provinces seem in the main to have 
been much worse governed than those directly under 
the care of the Caesar. In Trajan's day this was the 
case of Bithynia, which was in such evil state that 
the Senate resigned the rule of it temporarily, and 
Trajan sent as a special " legate" his personal friend, 
the author, Pliny. The correspondence between this 
high commissioner and the Emperor has been pre- 
served to us, and is among the most interesting 
pieces we have of Latin literature. One finds that 
the provincial towns of Bithynia have made ill use 
of the relative freedom allowed them by the govern- 
ment: there are public buildings falling to decay; 
and charges of misappropriation, embezzlement, 
improper city debts, etc., are flying everywhere. 


The correspondence is striking in showing Trajan's 
excellent judgment, common sense, and unwillingness 
to stand needlessly on his imperial dignity, although 
he shows the traditional governmental attitude against 
anything likely to foster political unrest when he 
warns Pliny not to let the inhabitants of Nicomedia 
organize a fire company, since " societies, whatever 
name they bear, are sure to become political associa- 

The nineteen years of Trajan's reign, in short, were 
a period of great internal prosperity, and of relative 
liberty for the individual ; yet they were still more 
notable for the Emperor's conquests over the re- 
doubtable Dacians and Parthians. 

16. The Dacian and Parthian Wars. — Claudius 
had violated the precept of Augustus against extend- 
ing the Empire, by annexing Britain ; Trajan went 
further, and added a great province north of the 
Danube. Yet this conquest was made not from 
bloodthirsty seeking of military glory. As early as 
the reign of Augustus the formidable Dacians, a 
people probably of Thracian origin, inhabiting what 
is to-day Hungary and Roumania, had crossed the 
Danube and plundered the allies of Rome. They 
had been easily repulsed by the imperial generals; 
but during the first century a.d. their power had 
been consolidating. There was grave danger that a 


warlike, semi-civilized, non-Roman power would 
arise beyond the Danube, and become a standing 
menace to the Empire. Domitian had been obliged 
to buy, rather than to gain by conquest, a peace. 
Decebalus, the Dacian king, had not merely de- 
manded money, but that Romans send him artists 
and mechanics to teach his people the works of peace. 
With his rear covered by the fastnesses of the Car- 
pathian Mountains, the rich plains of modern Hun- 
gary and the mineral wealth of the hills gave 
Decebalus all the elements of a really aggressive 

Our accounts of the campaigns of Trajan against 
Decebalus and his people are painfully scanty. 
Better than the dry epitomizers is the pictorial in- 
formation given us upon the great column reared 
by the conqueror at Rome, on which are portrayed 
with marvellous clearness the leading incidents of the 
war. Probably in these campaigns Roman military 
art was at its very best. The skill of the Emperor's 
engineers triumphed over all natural obstacles ; roads 
were cut in the rock along precipitous ledges above 
the Danube; bridges of boats were laid upon the 
majestic river; the Roman leader, at length, in the 
second campaign, actually threw across the Danube 
a magnificent bridge of stone: " twenty piers, with 
arches 60 feet in breadth and 150 feet high, not 


reckoning foundations." It was the masterpiece of 
the imperial engineer, Apollodorus, and perhaps the 
greatest feat of its kind until decidedly modern 

In the first campaign (101-102 a.d.) Decebalus was 
pressed hard, sued for peace, razed his forts, and did 
homage to the victor. But the treaty was quickly 
broken. In the second campaign there was no truce 
with a wily and desperate foe. This campaign 
(104-106 a.d.) was marked with a stubborn resistance 
and some Roman reverses ; but no barbarian valor 
could block the on-working of the attacking military 
machine controlled by a master hand. In 106 a.d. 
Decebalus made a last rally, then slew himself. The 
conquest was complete. To prevent a new enemy 
from seizing the invaded country, and probably also 
to make use of its valuable mines, Trajan erected 
Dacia into a new province. Colonists soon swarmed 
in. Cities rose and for a time flourished. Dacia 
was indeed the first province (saving Germany) to be 
lost; but the imprint of the Roman dominion still 
remains with the inhabitants. To-day the language 
of modern Roumania shows a surprising affinity 
with the Latin. 

In honor of his conquests Trajan outvied earlier 
conquerors by the splendor of his triumph at Rome 
and by his exhibition of games, — one hundred and 


twenty-three days long, — wherein eleven thousand 
wild animals slaughtered ten thousand gladiators 
joined in mortal combat. With such a butchery the 
"best of princes" thought needful to humor his 

But his ambition for military glory had not been 
satisfied. The Parthian kingdom, a great monarchy 
with all the strength and weakness of a regular Orien- 
tal despotism, was ever stirring up trouble for Rome 
along the Euphrates, and particularly was meddling 
with Armenia, a vassal kingdom of the Empire. 
Perhaps with an ambition to rival Alexander the 
Great, Trajan went to Antioch in 114 a.d., summoned 
his devoted legions, and began a series of campaigns 
against Chosroes the Parthian. The first attack 
cleared the enemy from Armenia. In 116 a.d. the 
bulk of the Parthian empire seemed conquered. 
Ctesiphon, the capital, was taken. Trajan actually 
descended the Euphrates to the Erythraean Sea 
(Persian Gulf). He undertook to organize the 
Tigro-Euphrates valley into Roman provinces also, 
but he speedily learned that to overrun the East 
was not to conquer it. Revolts broke out every- 
where, and his health was failing. He had to 
set out for Italy, intending to return and castigate 
the insurgents, but died at Selinus, in Cilicia, in 
117 A.D. 


All in all, he may be reckoned the best of the rulers 
of the Empire following Augustus. 

17. Hadrian (reign 1 17-138 a.d.) ; his Person- 
ality. — Not the least of the good deeds of Trajan 
was that he left as his successor iElius Hadrianus. 
He was a younger kinsman of Trajan, had been 
educated by him, and intrusted with divers places 
of trust and opportunity, in which he proved his 
worth. In 98 a.d. he had married the Emperor's 
grandniece, a match brought about by the Empress 
Plotina, who appears to have done everything to 
advance the young man's interests. From this time 
on it had become increasingly plain that Trajan 
intended him for his successor, although when the 
great warrior suddenly died it is not quite certain 
that Hadrian had been formally adopted as his heir. 
The army, however, accepted him readily enough, 
and the Senate, as usual, acquiesced. 

The new Princeps was a Solomon after the conquer- 
ing David. He assuredly lacked the moderation, 
poise, and unvarying good sense of his predecessor, 
but he was far more a man of culture, ideas, and ideals. 
He was, in short, rather a Hellene in spirit than a 
Roman. Not merely was he anxious to govern well, 
but he was anxious to recognize the good in the faiths 
and customs of every part of his huge Empire. 
Sculpture, architecture, philosophy found in him a 


munificent and truly intelligent patron, and it was 
not mere flattery when his intimates called him also 
a poet. 1 

His reign, bereft of any notable external event, 
was on the whole marked by corresponding quiet 
within. The Jews, to be sure, — a remnant driven 
from Jerusalem, but not from Palestine, and goaded 
to fury by being forbidden to practise their rite of 
circumcision, — rose in despairing revolt in 131 a.d., 
and were not crushed until 136 a.d., by which 
time their unfortunate country had been reduced 
almost to a desert. This was the only important 
disturbance, and the energetic, intelligent Princeps 
was left to devote almost all his energies to the 
substantial betterment of the Empire. 

18. Hadrian's Works of Peace. — The age of 
Hadrian was the culmination of the Roman system. 
Never again were peace and prosperity so general, or 
the government so devoted to promoting the weal of 

1 Shortly before his death he composed these lines, justly 

famous : — 

Soul of mine, pretty one, flitting one, 

Guest and partner of my clay, 

Whither wilt thou hie away, 

Pallid one, rigid one, naked one, — 

Never to play again, never to play ?" 

[Merivale, translator.] 

Perhaps these verses are the best ever composed by an imperial 

or royal bard ! 


the governed. After him the prosperity lived on for 
some decades, but it was slowly on the wane. Un- 
fortunately, deeds of peace are less easy to summa- 
rize than deeds of war. It is possible to give merely 
an idea of Hadrian's noble activity. 

I. The new provinces across the Euphrates 
which Trajan had endeavored to organize out of the 
defeated Parthian kingdom were obviously difficult 
to defend and costly to keep in obedience. Hadrian 
had the moral courage to evacuate them, despite the 
criticism of the short-sighted. He retained, how- 
ever, Dacia, and Arabia Petraea, the country directly 
south of Palestine, which had been conquered by the 
generals of Trajan. 

II. The Roman law, largely existing in the form 
of judges' statements, "praetors' edicts," was with- 
out system, contradictory, and open to much indi- 
vidual caprice in administration. A famous jurist, 
Salvius Julianus, was employed by Hadrian to put 
these confused decisions into a well-ordered "Per- 
petual Edict" (put in force 131 a.d.) which later 
judges must follow, a great step towards the com- 
plete codification of the whole law of the Empire. 

III. The reign of imperial freedmen came to an 
end. By Hadrian's time Equites and senators had 
learned that it was not menial to perform the secreta- 
rial duties needed by an emperor. A regular civil 


service was organized. Only Equites were eligible 
for the important posts in the imperial household. 
The Emperor's privy council also — hitherto a very 
informal body — was regularly organized, of sena- 
tors and Equites, influential men, chosen as consiliarii 
Augusti at a good salary. This was another step, 
however, towards establishing an open monarchy. 
A sovran needs a formal privy council, where a mere 
" first citizen" does not. 

IV. Italy had hitherto been practically exempt 
from imperial interference, although Trajan had be- 
gun a policy of meddling. Now Hadrian brought 
her halfway to the level of the provinces by appoint- 
ing four judges of consular rank to take over much 
of the judicial duty hitherto very poorly discharged 
by the local magistrates. 1 This step was also a blow 
to the Senate, which had considered the supervision 
of Italy its peculiar care. 

V. The humanity of the Emperor and his advisers 
is shown in his legislation touching slavery. Here- 
after no master could kill an offending slave; he 
must be delivered to a magistrate. A matron who 
ill-treated her maids suffered five years' banishment. 
No slave was to be sold for immoral purposes or for 

1 The process of degrading Italy from her privileged position 
goes on fairly steadily from this time, until by about 300 a.d. there 
was little to distinguish her from the other provinces. 


fighting as a gladiator. These enactments flew in 
the face of the old Roman sentiment as to the abso- 
lute power of the master over his " speaking cattle," 
but they show the development of a kindly and 
humane philosophy, even before rulers began to be 
softened by Christianity. 

VI. On the frontiers, though there were no great 
wars, a vast work was done in reorganizing the army 
and adapting its tactics to the new barbarian enemies 
it was likely to encounter. The old open method of 
manoeuvring the legions was gradually abandoned for 
tactics more like those of the phalanx. Along the 
Danube and in Dacia, along the Rhine, and especially 
in the lands held by the Empire near the angle 
difficult to defend, formed between the Rhine and 
the Danube, a great series of fortified camps, castles, 
and palisades made invasion almost impossible; 
while in Britain " Hadrian's Wall," a still more 
elaborate and formidable structure, closed the 
province by a solid barrier from the Tyne to 
the Sol way against raids by the northern Cale- 

VII. But what did most to enhance Hadrian's 
prestige was the series of visits he paid to every part 
of his Empire. From 118 to 134 a.d. he spent very 
little time in Rome. Secure in the fidelity of his 
officers at the capital, he is found almost continuously 




travelling, now to Dacia, now Gaul, now Britain. 
Again it is Africa, Asia Minor, Macedonia, and twice 
Athens and Greece, the country he loved the best. 
In 131 a.d. he seems to have visited Syria, then 
Egypt. In 134 a.d., feeling his health giving way, 
he returned to Italy and spent his last years in his 
magnificent villa at Tibur, near the capital. 

These visits were not mere tours of investigation. 
The Emperor scattered benefactions wherever he 
went. On the frontiers he built fortresses and 
disciplined the legions; in the interior his bounty 
built baths, aqueducts, public basilicas, highways. 
Local abuses were corrected, local liberties sometimes 
enlarged. In Athens the Hellenizing Emperor de- 
lighted to linger. He mingled with the savants and 
philosophers of that still famous university city, and 
showered on her so many donations that a whole new 
quarter, gratefully called "The City of Hadrian, " 
arose outside the old town. To-day every visitor 
to Athens sees beneath the shadow of the ancient 
Acropolis the towering Corinthian columns of the 
notable Temple of Olympian Zeus, built in its 
present form by Hadrian. 

This is the merest summary of the great reign. In 
his later days the Emperor became morose and 
suspicious. He is charged with putting to death 
several eminent men without sufficient cause. And 


again we find a princeps ending his reign without a 
son to come after him. Hadrian tried to provide an 
heir by adopting a certain Lucius Verus and bestow- 
ing on him the name of "Caesar," — a designation 
which was coming to mean " emperor-presump- 
tive." But Verus himself died in 138 a.d., leaving 
his "father" still living. Hadrian was declining fast. 
He chose again to adopt Titus Antoninus, an ex- 
perienced and blameless noble of high rank, and 
required that he in turn adopt his own nephew, a 
promising younger noble, Marcus Verus, and also 
adopt the young son of the late Lucius Verus. The 
succession had thus been provided for. The Empire 
was at peace and in great prosperity, when Hadrian, 
the most brilliant of the Emperors, died of dropsy 
at Baiae in July, 138 a.d. 

19. The City Life under the Empire. — The age 
of Hadrian probably saw the greatest development 
of a characteristic phase of the imperial policy — 
the fostering of cities and city life. Contrary to 
general belief, there was much liberty under the 
principate, — not at Rome, where the noblemen of 
proud ancestry were likely to become dangerous 
conspirators, but for the dwellers in the innumer- 
able cities, great and small, that dotted the map of 
the Empire. The Graeco-Roman civilization was pri- 
marily an urban civilization, and wherever the eagles 


of the legions went there went town life and town 
organization also. In the East Greeks and Semites 
had been city builders long before the coming of the 
Italians; in the West, in Spain, Gaul, Britain, and 
along the Danube the Romans deliberately founded 
cities, settling towns themselves and forcing into 
them the semi-barbarous natives. Thus Gaul and 
Spain — once countries of scattered tribes with 
mere strongholds and villages — became almost a 
series of adjacent municipalities created by the con- 
querors. In the one province of Baetica (Southern 
Spain) we know there were one hundred and seventy- 
five corporate towns, with varying degrees of liberty 
and privilege, but all with an active civic life. Some 
of these towns are Roman " colonies, " their citizens 
boasting the same high privileges of the dwellers 
in Rome; some are "free towns," exempt from 
tribute, making their own laws, and exempt from 
having soldiers quartered upon them; some, again, 
are " tributary towns," liable to the taxation and 
interference of the provincial governor, but still 
with their own magistrates and council for local 
administration. A regular favor by the emperors 
(a favor often granted by Hadrian) was to raise 
a tributary town to a free town or colony, i.e. to 
bestow a local charter of privileges and liberties; 
and as dwellers in these communities possessing 


more or less local freedom, one must imagine a large 
fraction of the provincials to have dwelt. 

The government of these municipalities was in the 
main an imitation of that of the city of Rome before 
the coming of the Empire. The citizen-body chose 
two duumvirs (chief magistrates in place of the Ro- 
man consuls) along with cediles (commissioners of 
public works) and qucestors (finance officers). The 
local Senate, usually numbering one hundred, was 
composed of retired magistrates, now holding seats 
in the Council for life; 1 and it would ape with its 
solemn deliberations and claims to importance the 
more august Senate at Rome. Once in five years, 
again, two " quinquenales " — imitations of the old 
Roman censors — revised the Senate list, and re- 
formed the city revenues, building contracts, etc. 

There was no lack of bustling political life. The 
masses had votes, and had to be solicited by would- 
be magistrates with promises of gladiatorial games, 
public buildings, or of downright distributions of 
money (so much per head to each citizen, according 
to rank) upon assuming office. Political canvassing 
was fierce. On the walls of Pompeii were found 
numerous inscriptions begging votes for this or 

1 The members in the local Senates were usually called indiffer- 
ently decurions (a kind of patrician class, as opposed to the local 
plebs), or curiales {i.e. people with seats in the curia, — the Senate 


that candidate as a " worthy man," and favorable to 
some local interest. With the petty office went the 
purple robe, the curule chair, the lictors, — all the 
pomp and state of a great Roman magistracy. So 
desirable was this half tinsel that not merely was 
no salary paid the magistrates, but a regular gift to 
the community was a legal part of every office. A 
formal law forbade a candidate to promise great 
public benefactions to the voters, and then after 
election to fail to carry them out. 

Nor was a less selfish feeling of civic pride and 
public obligation lacking. We find repeated in- 
stances of great donations and bequests to one's native 
city. A new temple, even a new circuit of walls, an 
endowed rhetoric school, a fund for an annual feast 
or series of games to the citizens, — these were some 
of the ways in which local magnates dispensed 
their wealth, and felt rewarded if a statue stood in 
the local forum commending their virtues and mu- 

There was a darker side surely. Much "gen- 
erosity" was mere ostentation, or seeking for the 
vulgar praise of men. Many a " benefactor" paid 
for his own statue and laudatory inscription. Yet 
much of this public spirit was beyond doubt genuine. 
The duty of the imperial government to foster and not 
to oppress, the duty of the favored individual to 


repay the community for the conditions which made 
his prosperity possible, was more clearly recognized 
in the first and second centuries a.d. than in perhaps 
any succeeding age until the twentieth. 

Another task was wrought by the cities and their 
life, — the Romanizing of the West. In the East, 
where the cities antedated the Roman conquest, 
Greek and Oriental speech and modes of thought 
lived on; in the West every urban community was a 
centre of civilization among the rude Gaul or Briton 
or Spaniard. Thanks to the Latinized cities, the 
old Celtic barbarism wanes rapidly. Latin becomes 
the speech of at least all the upper classes, proper 
names are Latinized, the rhetoric schools of Gaul 
become famous, and the process goes on until no 
province yielded in loyalty to the imperial principle 
to Gaul. "Gallo-Roman " — more genuinely " Ro- 
man" than the dwellers in Italy — is the name 
writers on the history of the later Empire and the 
early Middle Ages give to the dwellers in the land 
of Vercingetorix. 

The age of Hadrian saw this city civilization 
in full flower and performing its beneficent work 
of civilizing and unifying the Empire. After him 
at length came a change. The prosperity slowly 
waned. The government was in increasing dangers 
and less able to foster, while the individual had less 


to give, and clung covetously to what he had the 
good fortune to keep. 

20. Antoninus Pius (138-161 A.D.). — Antoninus 
Pius/ whose name has sometimes been transferred to 
this whole age, until " the age of the Antonines" 
has become the synonym for peace and good govern- 
ment, ruled twenty-three years. Thanks to the direful 
gaps in our historical literature, we can hardly say 
more of his reign than that he continued in the good 
traditions of Trajan and Hadrian, and that under him 
the Empire still seemed to prosper. A few clashes 
there seem to have been with uneasy tribes near 
Dacia, a disturbance among the Moors of North 
Africa, an uprising in Britain, but no really serious 
war. The Emperor kept the machinery of govern- 
ment working in the manner prescribed by his able 
predecessors, and the machinery worked well. He 
himself — no traveller like Hadrian — spent his 
days in Italy, either at Rome or at his favorite 
country seat of Lorium in Etruria. We have pleasant 
personal glimpses of the simple and unostentatious 
life of the virtuous Emperor and of his family. The 
Princeps was moderate, affable, tender-hearted. 

1 The name "Pius" seems to have been bestowed from the 
"piety" with which he defended the memory of his "father," 
Hadrian, against whom the Senate murmured on account of the 
capricious severity of his later years. 


The Senate — treated with great respect — seemed a 
contented partner in the State. There were only 
trifling legal and administrative changes. Surely a 
halcyon reign, with the evil days of Nero far behind ! 
But unfortunately there is reason to believe that, 
beneath this outward calm and felicity, forces un- 
checked were making for decay in the army, the 
government, and in society. 

21. Marcus Aurelius (reign 161-180 a.d.); his 
Personality. — Antoninus Pius in his turn left an 
adopted "son" and successor, Marcus Aurelius, one 
of the most remarkable figures in ancient history. 
It is greatly to the glory of the Roman Empire that 
such a man could wear the purple for nineteen years. 
Marcus was of patrician ancestry, and nothing showed 
the discernment of Hadrian better than the fact that 
he obliged Antoninus to adopt this most promising 
youth at eighteen, and train him up as heir-presump- 
tive. Antoninus gave Marcus his daughter Faustina 
in marri?,ge, and in the latter part of his reign allowed 
him a very considerable share in the government. 

Marcus was, however, not a mere child of the pur- 
ple, even in the better sense of the term. Early in 
his youth he had adopted the austere practices of 
the Stoic philosophy, with its contempt for worldly 
condition and greatness. Barely was his mother 
— we are told — able to induce him to cease sleeping 


on the bare ground and to use a bed upon which 
were stretched sheepskins. But the new Emperor 
was not a half ascetic only. Deliberately he under- 
took to live the life of the duty-loving and duty-doing 
philosopher even upon the throne. During the days 
of his preparation under Antoninus we find him in- 
defatigable in the study of rhetoric and philosophy. 
His correspondence with his old friend and preceptor, 
the rhetorician Fronto, shows him a man of warm 
heart, of intelligent and kindly instinct. There is 
something extremely human in the way this pagan and 
heir of the imperators writes from his country seat 
at Lorium on one occasion. Speaking of the health 
of his infant daughters, he says: "The weather is 
bad, and I am ill at ease; but when my little girls are 
well, it seems that my own pains are of slight mo- 
ment, and the weather is quite fair." 

Very noble is the book he has passed to poster- 
ity, his Meditations, — a classic in philosophical 
literature. 1 In it the master of the legions speaks 
like another Ecclesiastes on the vanity of earthly 
ambition and greatness. Despite a certain tone of 
pessimism, the ideal for moral conduct is every- 
where bracing and noble. He knows the world is 

1 It is worthy of note that Marcus wrote this book in Greek, a 
proof of how Hellenism was again pervading the nominally 
Latin empire. 


very evil, and is resolved to make the best of it. 
" Begin in the morning by saying to thyself, ' I shall 
meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, 
deceitful, envious, unsocial ; ' " but later he adds not to 
be discouraged, for" it is in thy power whenever thou 
shalt choose to retire into thyself; for nowhere 
either with more quiet or more freedom from troubles 
does a man retire than into his own soul." The 
man, in short, who enjoys perfect self-mastery, who 
can take outward circumstance at its true worth, is 
realizing the best, be he outwardly slave or emperor. 
A pagan and incomplete doctrine; but Marcus wrote 
before Christianity had risen from the condition of 
an obscure and forbidden sect. 

Such a man, with a belief that sovranty was but 
another name for supreme opportunity for service, 
ought, if any ruler, to have made the world happy. 
Unfortunately, his reign was a troubled one; evils not 
of his making he had to contend with ; certain other 
evils he perhaps accentuated by blunders, though 
these blunders do credit to his goodness of heart. 

One blunder he committed at the outset. Along 
with Marcus, Antoninus had adopted young Lucius 
Verus, 1 and reared him as Marcus's younger brother. 
But Antoninus had not bestowed on Verus any 

1 Son of that /Elius Verus who, after adoption by Hadrian, died 
before his "father." 


particular power or favor. The principate fell to 
Marcus alone. Nevertheless, impelled by a mistaken 
sense of obligation, Marcus at once caused all the 
imperial authority to be granted to Verus, as his 
colleague and equal, and for the first time Rome 
saw two emperors on a par in formal authority. 
A premium would have been set on civil strife, had 
not Verus's actual vices come as a palliative. The 
second Emperor was a man of coarse fibre, a sybarite, 
and a sluggard. He was too engrossed in his own 
ignoble pleasures to be jealous when his " brother" 
kept almost entire charge of the government. In 
169 he died, and probably his passing was for 
the vast good of the Empire. Henceforth Marcus 
reigned alone, and faced manfully, if not wholly 
prosperously, the gathering tempests. 

22. Marcus Aurelius; his Wars and Perils. — It 
is one of the ironies of history that the reign of this 
most peace-loving Emperor should have been one 
of war and tumult. The period was one of public 
distress, but it is only possible to trace certain lines 
of confusion. 

I. At the very outset of the reign violent floods of 
the Tiber spread ruin through the environs of Rome. 
This, however, was a mere local calamity, but an 
earnest of worse to follow. 

II. There was a mutiny of the legions in Britain, 


happily quelled by the firmness of the general in that 

III. Along the Euphrates the Parthians — forget- 
ful of the chastening administered by Trajan — 
took the offensive. In 162 a.d. their king, Vologeses, 
seized Armenia, and defeated a Roman army. All 
the Roman East seemed open to attack. Marcus 
hastily hurried the Western legions hither, and found 
in Avidius Cassius a general worthy of the old 
Roman traditions. The Parthian onslaught was 
flung back; then the imperial armies swept down 
the Tigro-Euphrates valley. Ctesiphon, the Par- 
thian capital, was taken. The proud barbarian 
king was reduced to sue for peace (165 A.D.), 
and to buy it by ceding a broad strip in Meso- 
potamia. For the moment this seemed like a 
great success. 

IV. In the train of the Parthian war came a terrible 
affliction. A frightful pestilence — one of those 
periodic plagues that still scourge all Asia — was 
brought back from the East by the returning soldiers. 
The stories of the mortality in Rome, the dead 
removed by cartloads, the widespread panic, and 
belief that the end of the world was near, sound 
like the tales of the famous "Black Death" in 
the fourteenth century, or the "Great Plague" in 
London in the seventeenth. An appreciable pro- 


portion of the whole population of the Empire seems 
to have perished. Above all, great inroads were to 
be made in the army at a time when the legions 
were to be sorely needed. 

V. War was breaking out on the Danube frontier, 
war of the most dangerous kind. It is hard to dis- 
cern what it was just then that put the Germanic 
tribes of the north in motion. In 167 a.d. a congeries 
of warlike tribes — usually summed up under the 
names of Marcomanni and Quadi — undertook to 
force the Danube barriers and to penetrate into the 
Balkan peninsula and Italy. Many of the frontier 
fortress towns beat off their attacks, but the horde 
rolled onward, slipped through the mountain passes 
at the head of the Adriatic, and be ieged the great 
city of Aquileia in Northern Italy. The army was 
disorganized, the danger even to Rome herself great. 
In 167 and 168 Marcus was busy with the legions, 
gradually thrusting these very formidable tribesmen 
from the Empire. By 169 the worst danger seemed 
over, although the enemy were far from beaten to 
their knees. 

VI. In 175 a.d. to foreign war were added the 
perils of internal insurrection. Avidius Cassius, con- 
queror of the Parthians, was seduced by ambition 
to declare himself Emperor in Syria. In a letter of 
his preserved he charged Marcus, though " a very 


worthy man," with being an inefficient emperor, 
and not practical or energetic in the crisis. Luckily, 
his own attempt soon ended. His soldiers refused 
to follow him, and slew him. Marcus mercifully re- 
frained from punishing the dead man's sons; yet 
the revolt was another strain on the Empire, so 
tested already. 

VII. Some years of respite followed the fall of the 
pretender. Marcus was able to visit the East and 
play the part of the charitable benefactor at Alexan- 
dria, Smyrna, and Athens. At Athens he even en- 
dowed some professors' chairs to testify the obliga- 
tions of the State to learning. There was an oppor- 
tunity for beneficent legislation and for refilling the 
depleted treasury ; yet the peace-loving Emperor was 
not allowed to rest. By 178 a.d. he was again on 
the Danube, striving to curb the restless barbarians. 
He was rewarded with victories. It is said that he 
was on the point of reducing the enemy completely 
and annexing their lands, when death overtook 
him. Worn out by the fatigues of the campaign, 
he died at Vindobona (Vienna) in March, 180 a.d. 
So passed the noblest personality, though not the 
most successful emperor, in the long line of the 

His unworthy son,Commodus, made haste to con- 
clude a peace with the enemy his father had almost 


vanquished, and hurried away from the rude camp 
to the delights of the capital. 

The days of quiet and prosperity for the Empire 
were ending. The Pax Romana had been rudely 
broken. The long twilight was at hand. 




i. Commodus (reign 180-192 ad.) ; his Stagnant 
Reign. — Marcus Aurelius, unlike his predecessors, 
had possessed a large family. Instead of adopting 
the ablest man in the Empire as his heir, he left 
the purple to Commodus, his eldest son, a youth of 
scarce twenty, carefully educated, but already show- 
ing unpromising traits. Not at first wholly depraved, 
he speedily developed a bloodthirstiness and licen- 
tiousness which made his court little better than 
Nero's. Nero at least had tried to be a stage singer; 
Commodus gloried in being a gladiator in the arena, 
slaying from safe vantage thousands of wild beasts. 
But since he was too idle to pay much heed to the 
provinces, his reign was without great disasters. 
Statesmen trained by his father sometimes ruled for 
him; a succession of favorites — Perennis, Cleander 
(an ex-slave from Phrygia), and Eclectus — acted as 
all-powerful prime ministers. After showing their 
strength in the preceding reign, the northern tribes 
kept relatively quiet. By 192 A.D. the tyrant had 



run his course. Members of the imperial household, 
fearing for themselves, accomplished his assassination. 
The conspirators made haste to induce the guard and 
the Senate to proclaim Pertinax, an experienced 
soldier and senator. It seemed as if the crisis was 
safely over. It had in fact hardly begun. 

2. Pertinax (193 ad.) ; Didius Julianus (193 ad.); 
the Empire put up for Sale. — Pertinax was capable, 
humane, honest. He began the disagreeable task of 
repairing the harm done the administration by the 
lax years of Commodus. Unfortunately, he was 
not popular with the army. Especially the Praetorian 
Guard (humored and enriched by the late ruler) was 
angered at his untactful attempt to restore strict 
discipline. Three months after the fall of Commodus 
the mutinous soldiery forced the palace and slew the 
Emperor, carrying his head in triumph to their camp. 

Eighty-seven days only had Pertinax reigned, and 
now the demoralized palace guard was to add to the 
crime of murder the crime of putting the purple up 
at auction. Great was the power of money under 
the Empire, but never before had the reign of " King 
Lucre" been so unblushingly recognized. It had 
been long since usual for a new emperor to purchase 
the good-will of the army by a donativum, — a gift 
of so much money per man. The venal Praetorians 
now deliberately undertook to convey the Empire to 


the magnate promising the largest bounty. Perti- 
nax's own father-in-law, Sulpicianus, and a wealthy 
senator, Didius Julianus, openly bid against one 
another. The former was in the camp of the guard ; 
the latter was stationed on the wall above the soldiers. 
Messengers passed between the two rivals, announc- 
ing, "He offers so much; how much will you give?" 
Finally, Julianus bid 25,000 sesterces per man (about 
$1000). Sulpicianus dared not match him. The 
soldiers forced the successful bidder to swear not to 
harm his rival (lest such competitions be discouraged 
in the future). The Praetorians then took their 
mock-emperor to the Senate House. The senators, 
in terror of the thronging soldiers, made haste to 
recognize him with all kinds of lip service; but it 
was impossible really to convey the power in this 
way. The senators and city populace might mutter 
helplessly, but the generals and legions on the fron- 
tiers were at least ready themselves to have a hand in 
the transfer of the Empire — if it was to be trans- 

The scenes which followed were much like those 
after the fall of Nero. Three generals, Albinus in 
Britain, Septimius Severus by the Danube, Pescennius 
Niger in Syria, — all declared themselves sovrans 
Severus, the ablest and nearest of the three, with a 
formidable and devoted army, promptly put his troops 


in motion. It was vain for Julianus to levy gladiators 
as soldiers, and impress sailors from the fleet to eke 
out the slender numbers of the Praetorians. Outside 
the guard itself there was next to no loyalty to this 
incapable emperor-by-purchase. Severus's legions 
advanced rapidly into Italy. It was springtime; 
the roads were good; no natural obstacle hindered. 
In despair Julianus talked of conciliating Severus by 
appointing him his colleague. The advancing enemy 
scornfully refused to consider the proposition, and 
notified the Praetorians that he would pardon them 
if they surrendered the slayers of Pertinax. The 
frightened guardsmen lost no time in delivering up 
three hundred of their comrades; and the Senate — 
Julianus being utterly without power — decreed the 
upstart's death. He was slain in his bed, having 
claimed the purple only sixty-six days. "It was al- 
ready too much that he should have inscribed his 
name on the list of emperors" (Duruy). 

Severus entered Rome as a conqueror, surrounded 
by the veteran legionaries of the Danube armies. 
The miserable Praetorians were contemptuously 
granted (for the most part) their lives, but their 
corps was disbanded. Its former members were 
forbidden, under penalty of death, to come within one 
hundred miles of Rome. Hitherto the guard corps 
had been recruited almost wholly from Italy; here- 


after it was to be formed by picking men, often sheer 
barbarians, from all the legions. It was hoped that 
thus the guardsmen would be more amenable to 
discipline, and more devoted to the Emperor, al- 
though this proved hardly to be the case. 

3. Septimius Severus (reign 193-21 1 a.d.). — The 
new Emperor was by descent an African, and so 
gave another province its turn in the making of 
Caesars. He brought to his task experience, ability, 
courage, a clear vision; but on the other hand, he 
was without scruple or mercy in striking his enemies. 
He paid little heed to the august traditions of the 
Senate. With all his capacity, his reign did not 
make for the future weal of the Empire. 

It required two bitter civil wars to crush Niger 
and Albinus, the other claimants of the purple. 
Niger held out in the East, was defeated near 
Issus * in Cilicia, then was soon taken and beheaded 
(194 a.d.). Albinus (quieted into false hopes of 
a colleagueship with Severus while the latter was 
crushing Niger) had advanced into Gaul, but was 
overcome and slain in a bloody battle near Lugdunum. 
Severus deserved victory, for he had shown great 
energy and boldness, but he stained his laurels 
by cruel treatment of the adherents of the defeated 
parties. The wife, children, and kinsfolk of Niger 

1 Where Alexander the Great defeated the Persians. 


were put to death, along with twenty-nine senators, 
whose chief offence was the lack of ability to 
foresee the winning party. One of the victims was 
dragged before the conqueror ere execution. "If 
the destiny of battle had been against you," asked 
the captive, " what would you have done in my present 
case?" "I should have resigned myself to suffer 
what you are about to endure," was the unfaltering 
answer — characteristic of the stern African's whole 

These civil wars had cost the Empire sorely in the 
blood of its soldiers — blood better shed against 
foreign foes. But Severus, at least, did not spare 
himself. A fortunate campaign against the Parthians 
enabled him to pose as a foreign conqueror. He had 
married a Syrian lady, the beautiful and gifted Julia 
Domna, and spent much of his time in the East, 
where he undertook many great public works (e.g. 
the refounding and fostering of the famous desert- 
city of Palmyra) and organized Mesopotamia as a reg- 
ular province. Aided by the great lawyer, Papinian, 
many useful reforms were made in the legal system. 
The army, too, was strengthened by the establishment 
of three new legions. 1 

1 Augustus's original twenty-five legions had been raised ulti- 
mately to thirty. Now there were thirty-three, not too many 
considering the increasing problems of the Empire. One of 


But the Emperor unluckily undertook to build his 
power on the favor of the army. His acts were the 
acts of the unveiled, military despot ; he was a second, 
abler, more rational Domitian, at an age when the old 
Republican idea of " liberty" had sunken to a mere 
memory. With his reign the "Principate" became 
more completely than ever a fiction. And resting 
thus upon the army, he was compelled to humor 
the troops in a way dangerous for the future. The 
soldiers were given an increase of pay and the right 
to wear gold rings (a privilege hitherto reserved for the 
equites) ; and in addition, the restraints upon mar- 
riage among the rank and file were taken away. 
Hereafter a soldier lived with his family, and went 
to camp only when on duty — a serious blow to dis- 
cipline. Besides these direct favors, Severus seems 
regularly to have supported his soldiers against the 
interests of civilians. He surely won the loyalty of 
the troops in his lifetime; as surely he laid up woe 
for his successors. 

But idleness was not among his faults. In 208 a.d. 
he went to remote Britain and spent his last years in 
fighting the Caledonian tribes and strengthening 
Hadrian's frontier wall. In 211 a.d. he died at 
Eboracum (York). "Let us work" (" Labor etnus") 

Severus's new legions was stationed in Italy, hitherto exempt from 
garrisons of ordinary troops of the line. 


he gave as his last watchword. He was a potent, 
though not an admirable or infallibly wise, emperor. 
4. The Successors of Severus (211-222 a.d.) ; 
the depraving of the Army. — Severus had attempted 
to leave the power divided between his two sons 
Caracalla ' and Geta. Such an arrangement could 
succeed only if the two sovrans worked in truly 
brotherly harmony. Both being vicious and pitiless 
men, it took less than one year to bring them to strife. 
In 212 Caracalla, the elder, had his brother slain 
in the very arms of his mother. Henceforth there 
was only one monarch (ruling from 211 to 217 a.d.), 
a ruler in very unfavorable contrast with his great 
if steely-hearted father. The process of disposing 
of Geta's friends involved a reign of terror • It 
is alleged that Caracalla, troubled in conscience, 
roved over the world, now seeking oblivion in war 
on the frontier, now indulging in wanton acts of 
tyranny, — as in a frightful massacre of the populace 
at Alexandria. The army was loyal to him, for he 
followed Severus's precept and lavished gold upon 
it, but his profusion here and elsewhere meant an 
empty treasury. It was more as a financial measure 
than as an act of liberality that he bestowed by the 
famous " Edict of Caracalla" the rights of Roman 

1 His real name was Antoninus, but he is more commonly known 
by this nickname, derived from a Gallic tunic he liked to wear. 


citizenship upon all the freeborn of the Empire. 
Earlier Caesars had given the franchise very freely. 
The present act accorded with the policy of Hadrian 
and Severus in putting provinces and Italy on 
a level ; but especially it enabled Caracalla to 
collect generally the five per cent inheritance tax 
from which mere provincials had heretofore been 

In 217 a.d., while Caracalla was in the East, his 
Praetorian Praefect, Macrinus (217-218 A.D.), secured 
his assassination, and seized the purple; but being 
himself a feeble, unpopular usurper, he was quickly 
deserted by the disgusted legions for a claimant 
possessing at least connection with the house of 
Severus — the young Syrian Elagabalus * (218- 
222 A.D.). 

The real rulers, however, instead of the nominal 
Augustus, were his grandmother, Julia Maesa (sister 
of Severus' s Empress Julia Domna), and his mother, 
Julia Scemias, strong, masterful women who had 
guided the mutiny of the soldiers which cost Macri- 
nus his life. Upon the appearance of Elagabalus in 
Rome he speedily gave all the signs of an Oriental 
degenerate. Wild orgiastic cults were introduced 
from the East. The Emperor himself combined 

1 Originally named Bassianus, he derived his later name from 
the Syro-Phcenician sun-god, whose priest he had been. 


the follies and cruelties of earlier tyrants with even 
greater debaucheries. There was enough manhood 
still at the capital to revolt at some of his excesses. 
In 221 a.d. the army forced him to proclaim his 
youthful cousin, Alexander Severus, as co-emperor; 
and when, in 222 a.d., Elagabalus tried to dispose 
of Alexander by murder, the angry soldiers slew 
him. It was a good riddance, but between 217 
and 222 A.D. three emperors had perished at the 
hands of the soldiery. It was evident that the 
legions were getting out of hand. To curb and 
rediscipline them would be the great problem of the 
next reign. 

5. Alexander Severus (reigned 222-235 a.d.) ; 
the Last Quiet Reign ere Disaster. — The next em- 
peror (born 205 a.d.) was also a Syrian, the East 
now supplying its quota of Caesars. If passive 
virtue could have redeemed the situation, Alexander 
would have redeemed it. He was the son of Julia 
Mamaea, another daughter of Julia Maesa. Unlike 
his vicious cousin, the young ruler in some respects 
imitated the moral excellences of Marcus Aurelius. 
Once more philosophy reigned in the palace, and 
the government boasted itself as conducted on the 
principles of clemency and justice. The Senate 
was treated as a coordinate branch of the govern- 
ment. Ulpianus, the leading jurist of his day, 


was Praetorian Praefect, 1 and first minister of State. 
Julia Mamaea, a wise and moderate woman, exer- 
cised her power as Empress-mother only for the best. 
Much was done to reform the legal machinery of 
the Empire, making justice more speedy and certain. 
The imperial court was pure. Alexander and his 
mother set an honorable example in the simplicity 
and uprightness of their lives. "Do not to another 
what thou wouldest not have done to thyself" 
were the words the Emperor caused to be engraved 
above his palace. Alexander went so far as to cause 
a statue of Jesus Christ to be set up in his private 
temple, — along with divers pagan worthies, — a 
testimony to his willingness to see good even in the 
founder of a despised religion. 

Unluckily, in spite of all these excellent qualities, 
the new ruler did not exhibit sufficient firmness in 
dealing with the many serious evils, soon to be 
enumerated, which afflicted the Empire. Particu- 
larly he lacked tact and success in dealing with 
the army. A victorious general can impose strict 
discipline, but not an untried young man. "With 
its mighty army of mercenaries," says the French 
historian, Duruy, "the Empire was condemned to 

1 By this time the Praetorian Praefect had become highest 
criminal judge in Italy, "beyond the one-hundredth mile- 
stone" from Rome, and consequently had to be a trained lawyer. 


have for successful rulers none but great generals. 
Such had been Severus. Such Alexander was not." 
In 228 a.d. the Praetorians, incensed by some stern 
measures of Ulpianus, murdered the great minister 
at the very feet of the Emperor. The mutiny was 
tided over, but in 231 a.d. a serious danger appeared 
in the East. The decadent Parthian power had been 
recently overthrown by a revival of the once famous 
Persian kingdom. The renewed Persian kingdom 
under the dynasty of the Sassanidce was an aggres- 
sive and dangerous neighbor for Rome. The Per- 
sian kings were ardent Zoroastrians (sun- and fire- 
worshippers) and brought to their wars something 
of the terrible Oriental religious fanaticism. Alex- 
ander had to confront a deliberate attempt of the 
Sassanidae to wrest from the Empire all its Asiatic 
provinces. The unwarlike sovran was forced to go 
to the East with the legions and enter upon a fierce 
and doubtful struggle. Accounts are confused, but 
the truth seems to be that, although Alexander suc- 
ceeded in turning back the attack, he did not win 
any victories decisive enough to revive the glories 
of Trajan. Despatches to the Senate exaggerated 
his successes, but the soldiers had no confidence in 
him. In 235 a.d., while he was on the Rhine pre- 
paring to beat back a new inroad of the Germans, a 
body of disaffected recruits mutinied and slew him 


along with his mother. In his place they proclaimed 
Maximinus, a barbarous Thracian, who had only 
the rudest military virtues to commend him. 

With the death of Alexander Severus the period 
of prosperity (on the wane since 161 a.d.) comes 
definitely to an end. Destructive causes, long work- 
ing silently, now became active. The wonder is 
that the Empire did not perish in the third, rather 
than in the fifth, century. 

6. Why the Empire Declined. — It seems an 
anomaly that after the long rule of the "good em- 
perors" — the most beneficent form of semi-absolut- 
ism the world has ever seen — their Empire should 
so suddenly decline. It is usual to assert that the 
Romans grew rich, hence luxurious and slothful, 
and perished because manly virtue had died out 
among them. Yet this is only partly true. The 
still great and glorious Empire was suffering from 
a series of ills, not all of the same kind, and some 
not briefly traceable. Only a few of these malevo- 
lent factors can be discussed. 

I. The Enervating Effects of the Pax Roniana. — 
The very security of the Empire made for ultimate 
disaster. Men forgot that it was a human institution 
and could perish, — that vigilance and patriotism are 
the price not merely of liberty but of sound govern- 
ment. The emperors, by depriving the individual 


of almost all part in caring for the public weal, 
ultimately deprived him of any public initiative or 
capacity. Everything depended on the govern- 
ment. When that failed, there was no reserve, 
moral or physical, among the masses. To most 
men their public duties ended when they paid their 
taxes, or perhaps held a civic magistracy. The 
larger interests of the world were Caesar's — let him 
look to them. The use of weapons was almost for- 
gotten save by the legions and a few brutish gladia- 
tors. When the legions failed before the enemy, 
there was no trained militia to fall back upon; 
and good swordsmen cannot be recruited and drilled 
in a day. 

II. Slavery and Serfage. — Here, perhaps, was the 
most potent single cause of decline. Slavery had 
been almost the ruin of free labor. 1 But when new 
provinces ceased to be conquered, slaves ceased to 
glut the markets; one could not seize free pro- 
vincials and sell them for farm-hands. Yet the slave 
regime lasted long enough to put a social stigma on 
honest toil, and to make the number of free small 
farmers and free artisans pitifully few. Considerable 
numbers of slaves, nominally manumitted, rose to 
a position to which many free farmers were sinking, 
— to the status of the coloni. The colonus occupied- 

1 See p. 39. 


land granted him by a great proprietor; for this he 
paid a rental, but he was by no means a free tenant, 
for practically he could not quit this estate which 
he was working. 1 He was better than a slave, in- 
asmuch as the lord could not sell either him or his 
little farm separately — they must go together to 
the new owner. Legally he was still a freeman, but 
in practice the magistrate would be always on the 
proprietors' side. Litigation against the latter was 
nearly hopeless. The status of the colonus was 
also becoming inheritable — from father to son. 
Once a colonus always a colonus, unless one was 
drafted into the army. This system had hardly 
reached full development by 235 a.d., but it was 
rapidly becoming common. Ex-slaves, petty farm- 
ers who had lost their own land, barbarian captives 
of the emperors, all became coloni: in substance 
serfs, hopeless, tax-ridden, disloyal. The pros- 
perous middle class — the true prop of society — 
seemed being destroyed. The very rich confronted 
the very poor, with next to no barrier between 
them. 2 

1 Legally he might depart, but practically it involved the 
abandoning of all his little personal property ; no other magnate 
would welcome a runaway ; he would probably starve. 

2 Even as early as the time of Nero we are told that six land- 
owners divided practically all the great African province between 


III. Depopulation. — All evidence goes to show that 
the Empire was losing steadily in population even 
in the prosperous periods. Slavery was destroying 
the free laboring class, but slaves themselves seldom 
left large families. Still more disastrous was the 
fact that the Roman world violated recklessly the 
moral and social laws which govern the repro- 
duction of mankind. "Vice" in the narrow sense 
of the term was general, and sternly punished by 
Nature. The birth-rate was low. Of the first six- 
teen emperors only two were succeeded by sons born 
to them, although one or two others had sons who 
never gained the purple. 1 Especially the upper 
classes were childless, dreading the expense and 
trouble of families. Early in the Empire the Greek 
provinces had dwindled notably in population; in 
most of Italy the cities once large were decadent 
and half inhabited. Rome and a few other great 
centres were kept up by a constant influx from 
provinces, but many rural sections were lapsing 
into sheer wilderness, even early in the second cen- 
tury. The Oriental provinces were more prolific, 
but they were not the most desirable parts of the 

1 The two were, of course, Vespasian and Marcus Aurelius. 
Tiberius's son, Drusus, died before his father; Claudius's son, 
Britannicus, survived him, but did not reign; Vitellius had a young 
son who perished with him. 


Empire. There is some ground for saying that the 
great Graeco-Latin stock — the folk of Sophocles, 
Plato, Caesar — had reached the limit of its vitality. 

IV. The Waste of Wars. — This had not been serious 
until Marcus Aurelius. Then the Marcomanni and 
Quadi dragged away captives by the tens of thou- 
sands. Marcus forced the Quadi alone to surrender 
50,000; but how many more were slain or never 
surrendered ! The civil wars following 193 a.d. 
and the ceaseless strife — foreign and civil — that 
followed after 235 a.d. involved vast bloodshed and 
the complete unsettlement of commerce, industry, 
agriculture; conditions ruinous to the peaceful 
population that was the mere victim of the actual 
combatants. All this preyed heavily upon a society 
ill-prepared to make good its losses. 

V. The Failure of Coined Money. — The ancient 
world was ill supplied with precious metals. Some 
mines in Spain, Thrace, Gaul, Dacia, 1 an uncertain 
supply from the African deserts, furnished about all 
the gold and silver. As the imperial period ad- 
vanced, the amount of circulating medium was 
steadily lessening. The old mines were becoming 
exhausted. The jeweller's meltings, the mere fric- 

1 The Dacian mines were exposed to constant interruption by 
barbarian attack, and in the third century the region was lost 


tion of use, hidden hoards (the " treasure in the field" 
— oldest of savings banks), or exports of actual 
coin to India in exchange for pearls and spices, — 
all reduced the stock of coin. Presently the coinage 
began to be eked out with base metal. Under Nero 
the silver denarius (about 16 cents) was almost 
pure ; under Alexander Severus it was fifty to sixty 
per cent alloy. In the evil days following Alexander 
the debasement became still greater. A "silver" 
piece would contain only twenty, ten, or five per 
cent of real silver, often a mere white plating over 
the copper alloy. The standard gold piece {aureus) 
was reduced in weight and fineness also, and was 
constantly appreciating in value, since the govern- 
ment now insisted that taxes be paid in gold rather 
than in the utterly debased silver. Finally, in de- 
spair for other mediums, the men of the Empire fell 
back on base copper, which at least could not be 
depreciated. The "follis" — i.e. a sealed bag of 
about 500 small copper coins — was used, and 
passed around in the place of standard gold and 
silver pieces. 

All this failure of the coinage involved a terrible 
unsettlement of commerce and industry. Even 
government officials were driven to draw part of 
their salaries in silken robes, measures of wheat, 
horses, mules, etc., rather than in the unreliable 


money. Men were forced to rely again on mere trade 
by barter. This was more than an inconvenience. 
It was a step backward in civilization, the substi- 
tution of primitive " natural" economy for the ad- 
vanced " money" economy. 

VI. The Legions Barbarized. — Thanks to the long 
peace, first the Italians, — the men who had con- 
quered Hannibal, Jugurtha, and Vercingetorix, — 
then the Romanized provincials themselves, had lost 
the military habit. Roman senators had become 
very loath to endure the hardships of camp life. 
It was counted surprising under the later Empire 
to find a young man of good family in the army. 
Military successes were still honored, but the typical 
cultured man of the Empire had almost a Chinese 
contempt for the military profession. Adventurers 
— mere soldiers of fortune, seekers of pelf and pre- 
ferment; helpless coloni dragged by the drafting officer 
from the bondage of their farms to the bondage of 
the centurion's discipline; or downright barbarians, 
men with un-Latinized names, from beyond the 
Danube, battle-worthy, but without loyalty to the 
Empire, — these came more and more to compose 
the major part of the legions, both officers and men. 

Such an army might still, owing to its discipline 
and military traditions, be able to win victories, but 
it would become increasingly hard to control, and 


increasingly willing to follow any chief who prom- 
ised his men some selfish advantage. Again, 
this army was a mere thin line spread along the 
frontiers. Once this line was broken through, 
there were practically no interior garrisons to fall 
back upon. Province after province, wealthy, 
helpless, might be ravaged by the barbarian invader, 
until the legions of this unreliable, un-Roman army 
could be summoned from unthreatened parts to 
hunt the ravagers down. 

Under these circumstances the danger of crowning 
disaster would be great unless the Germans and 
Persians kept unusually quiet. On the contrary, 
they were about to show unusual activity. 

VII. The Decline in Civilization and Culture. — 
This can be noted even apart from the causes men- 
tioned above. Outside the new Christian Church men 
were largely ceasing to develop ideas and ideals. 
Except in the mere writing of law books, Latin 
literature seemed almost deaa by the third century, 
and Greek literature in a hardly better case. No 
great poems or noble prose works were written. 
Hellenic sculpture, becoming in the Roman age 
ever more artificially elaborate, was now in a rapid 
decline. Architecture still was able to achieve 
certain triumphs, — e.g., the famous Baths of Cara- 
calla at Rome, — but these were triumphs of the 


grandiose, not of the beautiful. At Alexandria, 
however, and elsewhere in the Grecianized East, 
there was a certain amount of pedantic learning 
and refurbishing of old ideas and philosophies. 

The plain fact seems to have been that the classic 
impulse — the great fund of thoughts given the 
world by the Hellenes, and distributed through the 
world by the Romans — had almost spent itself. 
The old pagan religions, vainly rekindled by Augus- 
tus, were sinking to ashes. Men as yet untouched 
by Christianity were turning to divers new super- 
stitions, as will be explained hereafter, 1 — a tes- 
timony to the fact that man needs a religion, and if 
the old one fail, he will speedily make another. 

The last word had been almost spoken in pagan 
poetry, pagan art, pagan philosophy; and when a 
civilization ceases to go forward, it ossifies, which 
is the same in effect as going back. There was 
much intelli gence, ^v irtue, love of law and order in 
the world ^[235 A.D.^but most of it was not of the 
kind to make itself aggressively effective. Under 
these circumstances, and considering the undermin- 
ing causes just named, it is a tribute to the vitality 
still left in the Empire that it was able to endure 
through the storms of the third century, and enjoy 
a fleeting Indian summer in the fourth. 

1 See p. 163. 


7. The Great Disasters of the Empire (235-268 
a.d.). — It is almost impossible to sketch the annals 
of the Empire for the thirty-three years following 
the slaying of Alexander Severus. Caesar follows 
Caesar as each is raised and slain by the armies. 
Germanic tribes and Persian kings cast themselves 
upon the provinces. Cities are blotted out. Whole 
provinces are temporarily lost. Historical records 
become confused and inferior. Often about our 
best evidence is derived from a few debased coins 
struck by some emperor whose reign must be 
reckoned not by years but by days. The names of 
the wearers of the purple in this generation are 
usually to us names, and nothing more. To clothe 
them with flesh and blood is difficult. Yet, despite 
everything, there was a certain imperial continuity, 
and an effort may be made to trace it. 

A few years (235-238) disgusted the provinces 
with the brutal Maximinus. Three short-lived em- 
perors, father, son, and grandson (Gordianus I, and 
Gordianus II, who both died in 238, and Gordianus 
III, who reigned 238 to 244), followed him. The 
purple then passed to the Praetorian Praefect, Philip 
the Arabian (244-249), alleged to be a secret Chris- 
tian, yet for all that a very unworthy ruler. But in 
249 a.d. a revolt of the Pannonian legions put Decius 
(249-251) upon the throne. His reign was even 


more troubled than the preceding, for in it the 
dangerous northern tribe of the Goths (appearing 
now in force along the Danube) forced itself into 
the Balkan peninsula. Decius hastened to check 
their ravages, but after some combats, in which the 
Goths showed themselves able to face the disorganized 
Romans on equal terms, a pitched battle was fought 
near the Danube (251 a.d.). Decius and his son 
perished in the defeat. Even the Emperor's body 
was not recovered. For the first time a barbarian 
enemy had vanquished and slain a Caesar. 

And now disaster followed disaster. The title to 
empire seemed to belong to any general whose sol- 
diers would bestow it. The Senate at Rome could 
only satisfy the choice of the legions nearest at hand ; 
the praefects and centurions were the true electors. 
Unfortunately, they were almost as quick to with- 
draw their allegiance as to grant it; and the deposi- 
tion of an emperor meant his death. Between the 
death of Septimius Severus and the year 270, not one 
of the many wearers of the purple died in his bed. 1 
While pretender thus rose against pretender, while 
mutiny became a chronic condition for the legions, 
the enemy, Goths along the Danube, Alemanni in 
Northern Italy, Franks in Gaul, Persians in Syria, 

1 Unless Valerianus, who perished in a Persian prison, can be 
considered to have died naturally. 


ravaged the luckless provinces almost at will. The 
whole Empire was like a man in the grip of some 
foul disease. 

Gallus (251-253) endured through a nominal 
reign of two years; ^milianus (253) lasted only- 
four months ere his soldiers slew him. Valerianus 
(253-260), the most worthy in the long line of un- 
fortunates, reigned seven years, fighting valiantly, but 
hardly successfully, against the crowding invaders 
and rebels. In 260 he went on an expedition against 
the Persians, was defeated, captured, exhibited by 
the haughty King Sapor in Oriental triumph, and 
died in captivity. His captor is said to have caused 
his skin to be stuffed, tanned, and painted purple, 
in token that its one-time owner had been the suc- 
cessor of Augustus and Trajan. 

The captive emperor had left a son as co-emperor, 
Gallienus (260-268), but his rule was confined 
largely to Italy. Unable to secure help from the 
central government, the provinces were beginning to 
shift for themselves. In Gaul and Spain Postumus 
reigned as a practically independent " Emperor of 
the Gauls," defending those regions against the 
harrying Franks. In Syrian Palmyra Odenathus, 
a local merchant prince, raised himself almost to 
sovranty by his bold defence of the region against 
the Persians. Gallienus himself, sunk in indolent 


pleasures, and pretending some zeal for philosophy, 
was wholly incapable of coping with a desperate 
situation. Hardly a legion but forced the purple 
upon its sometimes unwilling commander. If he 
won, would they not reap a great donativum ? Nine- 
teen odd pretenders seem to have made their bid for 
empire about this time. Their very number inter- 
fered with their success. They killed one another 
off. " Comrades, you lose a good general, and you 
make a worthless emperor," cynically remarked an 
officer, when his men cast the purple mantle over 
him. And all the time the Goths were descending 
from the Black Sea in hordes, and ravaging the 
coasts of Greece and Asia Minor. The frontier de- 
fences were completely broken. Peace, security to 
person and property, everything man might hold 
dear, seemed all but lost forever. There were, how- 
ever, honest hearts and level heads still in the army. 
A series of successful generals from the great Illyrian 
provinces north and east of the Adriatic were to 
crush the usurpers, beat back the barbarians, re- 
store at least a measure of good government. 

In 268 Gallienus was murdered while attacking 
at Milan the pretender Aureolus. The chiefs of the 
imperial army knew their duty. They thrust into 
office one of the ablest of their number, Claudius 
(II), and secured for him the support of the sol- 


diery. Aureolus was overpowered, and the worst 
turn of the internal crisis was past. 

8. Claudius II, "Gothicus" (reign 268-270 ad). 
— At last a capable and patriotic man was hailed 
as Augustus — almost, but not entirely, too late to 
save the life of the Empire. Yet even Claudius, a 
seasoned Illyrian officer, could not restore the 
unity of the Empire. A rival must be left reigning 
in Gaul, another in Syria, while with all the remain- 
ing might of the Danube legions he went against 
the Goths, who were ravaging — as yet almost un- 
checked — the Balkan peninsula. After much cam- 
paigning they were at last brought to bay at Naissus 
(in modern Servia). The old Roman discipline won 
a great victory. Rightly was the conqueror hailed 
as " Germanicus Maxirnus" in his lifetime, and en- 
rolled in history as "Claudius Gothicus." But he 
did not live to follow up his success. In 270 a.d. 
he died a natural death — a rare fate for a third- 
century emperor ! However, the Roman world did 
not suffer, for his successor was the great Aurelian. 

9. Aurelian, " Restorer of the World" (reign 270- 
275). — Aurelian, to whom as much as to any one 
man the Empire owed its renewed lease of life, was 
the son of Illyrian peasants. He had entered the 
army as a common soldier, and had risen in the reign 
of Valerianus to an important generalship. His im- 


perial reign lasted only four years and nine months, 
but in that time, as Gibbon says, "he put an end to 
the Gothic War, chastised the Germans who invaded 
Germany, recovered Gaul, Spain, and Britain, . . . 
and destroyed the proud monarchy which Zenobia 
(widow of Odenathus) had erected in the East." 
His life was spent in abounding activity. Con- 
sidering the demoralized state of his army, it is fair 
to rank his successes above Trajan's and on a par 
with Julius Caesar's. 

I. The first peril was from the Goths. Claudius 
had not lived long enough to crush them utterly. 
Aurelian pushed the war against them till they were 
glad to make treaty. They were to stay beyond the 
Danube and supply the army with auxiliaries; but 
Aurelian paid a price heavy for Roman pride; 
Dacia, the northern province, was to be silently 
evacuated for them. Probably the Empire still held 
only a few forts in the exposed region, and these 
hard to maintain, and the land gave no financial or 
military strength; yet, although it was easy to pro- 
vide new homes, south of the Danube, for the former 
dwellers in Dacia, it could not be concealed that 
the boundaries of the Roman world were contract- 
ing. It is a sign of Aurelian's greatness that he 
dared to face this necessity. 

II. The Goths were quieted, but another Ger- 


manic horde, the Alemanni, cast itself into Italy. 
The whole rich Po valley seemed in the hands of 
their fierce cavalry. They were soon before the 
great city of Milan, and panic reigned even in 
Rome. Aurelian hastened with the legions by 
forced marches from the Danube to head off this 
onslaught. There were two desperate battles, the 
first indecisive. The second took place on the little 
river Metaurus, where once the brother of Hannibal 
(207 B.C.) had dragged down the Carthaginian cause 
in his defeat by the Romans. Here, again, the 
legions conquered. Hardly one of the invaders 
escaped northward to tell their tale; but the dan- 
ger had revealed to Aurelian another painful re- 
quirement. For centuries Rome had been without 
walls. Her ramparts had been a victorious army. 
Now — a confession of weakness, yet of need — 
Aurelian caused Rome to be fortified, "a great and a 
melancholy work." 

III. The northern danger had now in a measure 
passed. But in the East had risen that which men- 
aced direfully the unity of the Empire. In Zenobia 
of Palmyra had arisen a new, and in some ways a 
more dangerous, Cleopatra. Odenathus, prince of 
the great desert city, had perished. His queen — a 
beautiful, accomplished, masculine woman — main- 
tained his power. She is said to have ridden regu- 


larly with her troops on horseback, to have marched 
at their head for miles on foot. In the general pros- 
tration of the Roman power, Egypt and Syria cheer- 
fully welcomed the rule of this masterful Palmyrene, 
whose cavalry, drawn from the warlike Arabian 
desert tribes, 1 — had beaten back the Persian king 
after the downfall of Valerianus. She called her 
sons Augusti, and by Claudius II they had been 
given a certain tactful recognition. Herself she 
called "Queen of the East," — a title that might 
mean much or little, as power was given her to 
assert it. 

Aurelian might at first temporize with this Ama- 
zonian sultana ; he could clearly never allow her to 
sever one-third of the Empire from the West. In 
273 a.d. he marched against her, defeated her 
cavalry with his better-drilled legions, penetrated 
undauntedly with his army even the waterless desert 
to the oasis of Palmyra. All resistance was vain. 
Zenobia became a captive. Palmyra, revolting 
against its new Roman garrison, was devastated. 
The East was once more obedient to the Empire. 

IV. Then Aurelian could turn himself to the 
West. As "Gallic Emperor" Postumus (mur- 

1 In some ways this short-lived supremacy of Palmyra in the 
East was an Arab empire, the precursor of the later Moslem 


dered by his troops) had been succeeded by Tetricius. 
But Tetricius feared his own soldiers, and deliber- 
ately betrayed them when Aurelian advanced (274 
a.d.). The deposed emperor was taken captive, of 
course, but treated with the greatest consideration, 
and the western provinces were reunited to the 
world, under the aegis of the restored Pax Romana. 

V. A vast work had been accomplished. Goths, 
Alemanni, Palmyrenes, Gallic rebels, all had been 
beaten down; likewise a lesser uprising in Egypt 
which Aurelian's generals could cope with. In 274 
a.d. Aurelian celebrated a magnificent triumph in 
Rome, and never was one more worthily earned. 
In fetters of gold Tetricius and Zenobia were led 
before the conqueror as he rode in his car of state, 
drawn by four stags, 1 while Goths, Vandals, Scyth- 
ians, Alemanni, Franks, Gauls, Syrians, Egyptians, 
were marched in the long train of captives through 
the acclaiming city. 

In his wars Aurelian found little time for careful 
civil reforms. A beginning seems to have been 
made at the restoration of the coinage. In 275 
a.d. the mighty Emperor was at Perinthus on his 

1 Yet be it noted that not merely Tetricius (who surrendered 
on conditions), but Zenobia also, were pensioned and presented 
with palaces near Rome. Aurelian was as magnanimous as he 
was victorious. 


way to chastise the Persians, when a secretary, who 
feared his just anger, induced some officers to slay 
him, by pretending that Aurelian designed their 
ruin. Few murders have been more criminal, yet 
brief as had been his reign, Aurelian had restored 
the Empire to a large measure of its former glory. 

10. From Aurelian to Diocletian (275-284 a.d.). 
— The army leaders soon recognized their crime; 
in contrition they deliberately refused to name a 
new emperor, and asked to be given one by the 
now decrepit and long-ignored Roman Senate. 
That venerable body at length named an aged 
senator, Tacitus (September, 275, to April, 276), 
whose reign was too short to prove either ability 
or incapacity. On his death his brother Florianus 
tried to seize the purple, but the army this time 
asserted itself and put in power Probus (276-282), 
one of the best of Aurelian's lieutenants, a native 
of Sirmium in Pannonia, who had risen, like his 
chief, round by round in the army, and who now 
took up not unworthily the task Aurelian had laid 

A feeling seemed general that' there had been too 
much military dictatorship even for the sovran's 
own good. Probus deliberately humored the Senate. 
It was permitted to direct most of the civil adminis- 
tration of the Empire, and was respectfully consulted, 


while Probus found a new series of invasions suffi- 
cient to keep him busy. The Franks had again 
descended upon Gaul, and other peoples appeared 
— Vandals and Burgundians. Probus beat them 
back for the time, and strengthened the line of 
Rhenish and Danubian barrier walls and forts. 
Large numbers of the captive invaders are said to 
have been settled in small colonies throughout the 


waste lands of the Empire, — a testimony to the 
depopulation of the provinces, also a dangerous 
infusion of non-Romanized blood that might not 
be soon assimilated. 1 It was a successful if not 
wholly peaceful reign, but in 286 Probus met the 
usual fate of military emperors, — a band of muti- 
neers slew him. The officers elected Carus (282- 
283), a native of Gaul, to succeed him. This sturdy 
soldier conducted a victorious campaign against the 
Persians, but died in the East, while on the expedi- 
tion. Numerianus (283), one of his sons who had 
gone with him on the expedition, was proclaimed 
by the army, but was presently murdered by his 
praetorian praefect, Aper, doubtless with his own 
hopes for the sovranty. At Chalcedon (opposite 

1 This process of settling conquered barbarians in the vacant 
lands can be traced back to Marcus Aurelius, who began that 
"peaceful" Germanizing of the provinces which probably wrought 
almost as great changes ultimately as the regular invasions. 



Byzantium), however, the army halted. The troops 
would have nothing to do with the murderer; Dio- 
cletian, a humble-born Dalmatian, but the best sol- 
dier in the host, was clothed with the purple; and 
Aper was publicly stabbed to death by the new 
Caesar. From 283 to 285 a.d., Carinus (Numerianus's 
brother) , held out as ruler in the West till he fell in 
battle with Diocletian. 

At length the Empire had secured not only a 
good general, but a great civil reorganizer. Dio- 
cletian was to undertake the work of internal re- 
form which Aurelian did not live to accomplish. 
He also was to find the Empire and its old religions 
face to face with the new force and virtue of Chris- 
tianity. Diocletian was to be practically the last 
great pagan emperor. 



i. The Religious Revival; Mithras Worship. — 

There is abundant evidence that if Christianity had 
never arisen, the old-style paganism of the Graeco- 
Roman world would have been profoundly modified. 
The age of Cicero had been an age of scepticism; 
that of Augustus of an outward official revival of old 
paganism ; by the age of Nero a more marked 
reaction was taking place. Out of the East — the 
home land of so many good and bad cults — a 
strong religious influence was spreading over the 
West. It expressed itself in the favor with which 
a diluted form of Judaism was received by promi- 
nent Romans, notably by Poppaea Sabina, the Em- 
press of Nero ; by the popularity, especially among 
the women, of the Egyptian worship of Isis and the 
Phrygian worship of Cybele ; wild, orgiastic cults, 
yet having an element perhaps of sacrifice and atone- 
ment for personal sin, — an element almost wholly 



wanting in the stately formalism of the worship of 
Jupiter and Minerva. We are not degrading Chris- 
tianity in saying that it was part of the same move- 
ment, — an attempt from the East to supply the 
religious wants of the less imaginative, more intel- 
lectual West. 

But Christianity found another rival, more formi- 
dable than the above named, which for a moment 
seemed likely to outshine it by far. Even as Chris- 
tianity was the outgrowth of Judaism, so Mithraism 
was the product of Persian Zoroastrianism. 1 Mith- 
ras, the glorious minister and companion of Ahura- 
Mazda, the high and holy God, was associated in 
old Persian belief with the sacred fire, and particu- 
larly with the life-giving Sun. In this form he 
fitted readily into the Graeco-Roman cults as a kind 
of modified Apollo. But he was far more than 
simply Apollo under another name. As he won 
believers in the West, an elaborate form of worship 
was imported from the Orient with him. Nero 
himself desired to be initiated into the Persian rites, 
and later emperors looked on the new cultus with 
favor. While it did not imply a suppression of the 

1 Zoroaster, the semi-mythical prophet of Persia, seems to have 
taught a kind of dualism, — the constant war of the good and evil 
principles, with the ultimate triumph of the good; by no means 
an ignoble religion. 


old gods, it did seem to satisfy a very real hu- 
man need, — the purification of mankind from sin. 
Mithras was portrayed as a heroic warrior-youth, a 
"Fiend-Smiter"; he was styled "The Unconquer- 
able Sun," favorable in temporal affairs to his wor- 
shippers, potent also to help in the world hereafter. 1 
Mithraism presently developed a kind of ritual, in 
some points an unconscious parody upon Christian 
services; meetings of worshippers for celebration of 
the mysteries, a manner of clergy, who probably 
in set sermons would expound their system of the 
cosmogony; and most solemn of all, the rite of the 
tauroboliutn, 2 the awful baptism in the blood of a 
dying bull, whereby the believer was imagined to 
partake of the strength of the slain creature, and to 
have his soul renewed in its pristine sinlessness. 

As the third century advanced, the cult of Mith- 
raism became continually more popular. The army, 
especially, adopted it almost to the partial exclusion 
of the old gods. Scattered along the frontiers — in 
remote fortress towns in Dacia, Britain, Gaul — 
we trace, usually by altars and inscriptions, the signs 
of the Mithraic temples and congregations. The 

1 The Persian faith implied an immortal soul rewarded ac- 
cording to deserts with heaven or hell. 

2 A rite shared by Mithraism with the rival cult of the " Great 
Mother" (Cybele), etc. 


conqueror, Aurelian, was an especial favorer of the 
Sun cultus, and his temple to Sol Invictus is one of 
the last great pagan monuments in Rome. 

With its stately ritual, its promise of immortality, 
its demands for a relatively "pure" life, on the other 
hand, its freedom from a difficult, nigh incompre- 
hensible theology, Mithraism was a dangerous rival 
to Christianity during the second and third centuries. 

Another foe was in that revived pagan philoso- 
phy known as Neoplatonism (founded by Plotinus of 
Egypt, 203-262 a.d.), — an attempt to reconcile the 
old mythology with the philosophy of Plato and also 
with the new Oriental ideas, Jewish, Christian, and 
Persian, then current. Such a philosophy was con- 
venient to many intelligent men who found Chris- 
tianity too full of hard sayings. This anti-Christian 
party, realizing the power of a great personality, 
actually endeavored to raise the philosopher Apol- 
lonius ofTyana (almost a contemporary of Christ) to 
a level with the Founder of Christianity, attributing 
to him all the virtues of a saint and miracle-worker. 1 

These attempts to put new wine in old bottles, 

1 Note that to the later Pagans Christ's miracles presented no 
vast difficulty. The age was becoming increasingly credulous. 
Julian the Apostate (died 363), the last imperial champion of 
paganism, complained that Christ's miracles were mean, puny, 
and unworthy of a son of God. 


to spiritualize and revivify paganism, were not 
likely to succeed, but they testify to the growing 
need felt by an age of unquelled desolation and 
tumult for a vital and consolatory religion. 

2. Christianity and the Pagan Power. — Humanly 
speaking, Christianity owes a vast debt to the Roman 
Empire. The throwing down of all race barriers, 
the firm, equitable government, the relative ease 
of communication, allowed Christianity to spread 
through the world after a fashion simply impos- 
sible in any earlier age. The Romans had good 
humoredly tolerated all the native cults, and it mat- 
tered little if a faction of the Jews chose to sepa- 
rate from their fellows and hold a different manner 
of worship. 1 

Gradually, however, the Romans came to realize 
that Christianity and Judaism were not synony- 
mous. Many Gentiles were following the new 
religion. Circumcision and the keeping of the Mo- 
saic "Law" were not required by the new sect. 
Very important in the history of the world had 
been that "Council at Jerusalem" (about 50 a.d.), 
when St. Paul and Barnabas persuaded the Apostles 

1 Inevitably the case of Gallio (elder brother of Seneca) is re- 
called, who, as governor of Achaia in 53 a.d., refused to consider 
the charges of the Corinthian Jews against St. Paul, and drove 
the litigants from his praetorium. (Acts xviii. 14 ff.) 


and elders of the young Church that Gentile members 
need not become Jews in order to be good Chris- 
tians. Hereafter, especially following the disaster 
of Judaism in 70 a.d., the two creeds have less 
and less in common, until the Jewish element be- 
comes a very small fraction of the great Christian 

But Christianity now had to face fully the social, 
and occasionally the governmental, opposition of the 
Roman world. Its progress was slow. It required 
nearly three centuries from the earthly passing of 
its Founder to its acceptance as a tolerated religion 
by the Empire. The reasons why Christianity was 
not readily endured by a world that received Mith- 
raism, Isis-worship, Neoplatonism, etc., are not far 
to seek. 

I. Christianity, unlike Mithraism, demanded a 
complete break with the old gods, not simply a new 
god in the Pantheon. And in the forms of society, 
in the prejudices of the mob, in the machinery of 
government, the old ancestral worship still lived 
on. It was a species of treason to repudiate the 
gods of one's fathers, even if one did not believe in 
them very heartily. 

II. The Christians usually recruited their numbers 
from the lower classes, the poor, the slaves, — those 
to whom the Christian hope of future happiness 


would most immediately appeal. An organization 
of such elements was sure to be ridiculed; and 
certain Christian theories, as e.g. contempt for 
worldly misfortune, were easily distorted into 
" misanthropy/' "hatred of the human race." 
Private Christian gatherings were charged with 
being the scene of horrid orgies. The story cur- 
rent was that the Christians worshipped a malefac- 
tor who had an ass's head, and who had died the 
vilest death — that of the cross. 

III. The Christians, unlike almost all other cults, 
appealed to every race and portion of the Empire. 
The Egyptian must forsake Anubis, the Gallic 
Druid his sacred oak, all to enter a common organi- 
zation and serve a common Master. This common 
organization in almost every province * gave the 
Roman government fear. Even enlightened em- 
perors might dread an imperium in imperio, a 
society which withdrew its members partially from 
their allegiance to the Empire, and which encour- 
aged them to place their litigation before the arbi- 
tration of the " Church" rather than before the 
praetor. So Christianity was held to come into the 
catalogue of forbidden religions {e.g. the Bacchanals, 
— a hideously immoral cult), or again the laws 

1 There is good reason for thinking, however, that the majority 
of the Christians were for a long time in the East. 


against unauthorized collegia (guilds or quasi-labor 
unions) might be invoked against it. 

IV. In refusing to burn incense to the "genius" 
of the reigning emperor and the departed and deified 
Angus ti, the Christians laid themselves open to the 
constant charge of disloyalty. Vainly they pro- 
tested that they prayed for the reigning Caesar, and 
for his success and victory. They would not " wor- 
ship " any living man or his predecessors. The 
government felt obliged to hold that they were re- 
fusing the act of allegiance, by which all men must 
prove their adhesion to the all-important Empire. 

It is needless to catalogue the various " persecu- 
tions" of the Church by the authorities, i.e. at- 
tempts to break up the Christian communities and 
to force the members to burn incense, if not to the 
old gods, at least to the emperor. Nero's persecu- 
tion had simply been an attempt to make a scape- 
goat for the fire at Rome out of a very unpopular 
sect. Pliny the Younger, while ruling Bithynia 
(about 112 a.d.), found the Christians very numer- 
ous. The old temples were even deserted. He 
writes to Trajan, asking how these misdemeanants 
shall be punished for violating the law against 
unauthorized cults and societies. Trajan replies 
humanely that Christians are not to be sought out 
by inquisitorial process, but if a case seems clear, 


the defendant must be required to 'sacrifice to the 
old gods; if he refuses, he must, of course, suffer 
death, as the member of a forbidden organization. 
During the second century there were occasional 
persecutions, not usually the systematic efforts of 
the emperors to root out the new religion, but either 
the results of overmuch zeal on the part of some 
local magistrate, or the outbreak of popular super- 
stition and mob wrath. A famine, an intimation 
from the jealous priests of the city-temples, "The 
Gods withhold rain on account of the Christians!" 
an excited, hungry rabble clamoring, "The Chris- 
tians to the lions !" before the Praetorium, the com- 
pliant governor, the last scene in the arena, — such, 
with local variations, would be the typical story of 
many martyrdoms. 

Generally speaking, in normal times the Chris- 
tians were regularly attacked by the law. The 
pressure upon them was social rather than physical. 
But the law gave its aid to sudden and fierce perse- 
cution. So the new religion slowly won its adherents 
down to the day of Alexander Severus. 

3. Christianity in the Third Century. — Alexan- 
der Severus had accorded a distinct toleration to 
the Christians. Philip the Arabian was entirely 
friendly, if not an actual convert; but under Decius 
the period of calm ended. The Empire was now 


plunged deep in difficulties. It was natural for even 
a relatively good emperor — and such Decius was 
— to see in this growing sect one of the prime causes 
of the general disintegration. As the great German 
historian, Ranke, has well said, "The imperator 
united state and religion; Christianity separated 
before all things that which was God's from that 
which was Caesar's" — there could therefore be no 
long truce between a Christian Church and a pagan 

The persecution under Decius (the so-called " Sev- 
enth Persecution") was "the first which histo- 
rians unite in calling general. It was a systematic 
effort to uproot Christianity throughout the Em- 
pire." The whole power of the governmental po- 
lice was put forth. Thousands of Christians were 
seized, tortured, sent to the arena or scaffold, or to 
a more lingering death of hard labor in the mines. 
It must be said that the persecuted often deliber- 
ately sought "the martyr's crown," defying the 
officials to do their worst, and compelling mercifully 
minded praefects to inflict the extreme penalty. In 
the peaceful years preceding, the Church had ac- 
quired many fair-weather adherents who now fell 
promptly away; yet the calmness with which large, 
companies of humble men and women endured 
stripes, bonds, and death for the sake of conscience 


put its impress on many an intelligent Pagan. The 
attitude of the Emperor was logical; Decius is re- 
ported to have said he would rather have a second 
emperor in Rome than a Christian bishop — an 
unconscious prophecy of the secular power those 
bishops of Rome were one day to claim. It was 
a sharp, bitter struggle. The leading spirit among 
the Christians was the great Cyprian, Bishop of 
Carthage, who took the consistent attitude of neither 
seeking the martyr's crown by rash presumption, 
nor shunning it when brought to the ordeal. Cyp- 
rian went into retirement and saved himself tem- 
porarily. The swords of the Goths ended Decius 
on the dread battle-field in Thrace. The next em- 
perors had other things to think of. The edicts 
against the Christians were not repealed, but the 
fury of persecution waned for the moment. 

In 257-258 Valerianus revived the attack. There 
were more arrests, confiscations, and executions. 
The chief martyr this time was Cyprian, as well as 
Sixtus II, Bishop of Rome. But the capture of the 
Emperor by the Persians left his son Gallienus in 
power, and that incompetent ruler's one good act 
was his edict of toleration to the sect he lacked the 
power and possibly the disposition to crush. The 
Christians were now allowed to have their ceme- 
teries, their churches (already, it would seem, large 


and handsome buildings), and they could conduct 
their worship openly. There is evidence that in the 
decades between Gallienus and Diocletian the Chris- 
tians grew rapidly in numbers and social status. 
Senators, Equites, army officers, ladies of the im- 
perial court, were not ashamed to adhere to a religion 
that had once been accounted vile. 

By the year 300 a.d. the Christians were still pos- 
sibly not more than five per cent of the whole popu- 
lation ; but their cohesive enthusiasm gave them far 
greater weight than their numbers seemed to war- 
rant. Most of the active intelligence of the deca- 
dent age was in the Church. The Pagans had the 
wealth, the famous temples, the philosophers' schools. 
But while Paganism still had millions of adherents, 
it had practically no martyrs. Who was willing to 
die for Isis or Apollo? Under these circumstances, 
a wise emperor might well ask whether, since Chris- 
tianity could not be conquered, it could not be con- 
trolled? In other words, whether the aggressive- 
ness and organized activity of the Church could 
not be made useful to the Empire by recognizing 
Christianity as the state religion? 

When Diocletian became emperor, this question 
was on the point of being propounded to the gov- 
ernment. The Christians had formed a close organi- 
zation; they had cast out dissenters (" heretics") 


from their midst. Their bishops were arraying them- 
selves gradually in a compact body under the lead 
of the Bishop of Rome in the West, and the bishops 
of Antioch and of Alexandria in the East. To root 
them out was probably beyond the powers of the 
administration. What, then, would Diocletian do? 
Fortunately for his fame, he did not attempt at firs,: 
to answer the question. 

4. Diocletian; the Recasting of the Empire; 
reign 284-305. — Valerius Diocletianus had been 
born in 245 at Salona in Dalmatia, of very humble 
parentage. He had been a trusted officer under 
Aurelian and Probus. His election by the army was 
a wise choice. Not an easy philosopher, nor an art 
patron, but a vigorous soldier and a daring ad- 
ministrator was needed — and Diocletian was such 
a man. The two decades of his reign were years 
of extreme activity. In them the Roman Empire 
was practically recast. 

I. Early in his reign Diocletian recognized that 
the Empire offered problems too great for one man. 
A division of the office (a) enabled at least one 
Emperor to be present in person on a threatened 
frontier; and (b) discouraged rebels, since they 
must now overthrow two enemies, not one. In 286 
Diocletian raised to the purple first as "Caesar," 
then as full "Augustus," his old comrade Maxi- 


mianus, also a humble-born Pannonian, a rough but 
capable soldier. To him was intrusted the defence 
of the Western Provinces, while Diocletian kept h's 
control especially in the East. 

II. This arrangement was not unhappy, but the 
perils of the Empire thickened. There was war 
with the barbarians along the Danube and Rhine; 
the African Moors and Egyptians were uneasy; 
Persia threatened invasion. Britain was held by a 
rebel general who claimed the purple. To relieve 
the great burden, Diocletian made another sub- 
division of powers. He and Maximianus took two 
junior colleagues with the title of Casar (293 a.d.) 
in the West the capable and refined Constantius 
Chlorus, in the East the capable but more uncouth 
Galerius. These junior emperors were to be the 
lieutenants of the senior emperors, and were given 
their daughters in marriage. In due time the senior 
rulers were to retire and let the juniors become 
Augusti. In this way the younger rulers, being 
assured of the ultimate succession, were to be kept 
from revolt. 

As the subdivisions were worked out, Maximia- 
nus, with his capital at Milan, 1 ruled directly Italy, 

1 Rome became a very inconvenient place of residence as soon 
as the emperors had to be much on the frontiers. Diocletian paid 
it only a most grudging visit, to the vast disgust of the city multitude. 


Spain, and Africa; Constantius Chlorus ruled over 
Gaul, and soon recovered Britain from Treves; 1 
Galerius held the bulk of the Balkan peninsula with 
the Danube frontier, ruling from Sirmium on the 
Save; while Diocletian himself ruled the Eastern 
Provinces from Nicomedia in Bithynia. The ar- 
rangement was not a bad one as long as the com- 
manding personality of Diocletian made the junior 
rulers act together. It broke down completely 
when the master's grip relaxed, and the selfish 
"colleagues" began each to struggle for the glitter- 
ing prize of the sole sovranty. Diocletian's scheme, 
like many others, had one capital defect, — it was 
too ingenious to succeed. 

III. For the moment, however, all went well. 
The barbarians were flung back on every side. 
Rebels were crushed. Peace was dictated to 
humbled Persia. Great undertakings for rebuild- 
ing and renovation in the sorely ravaged prov- 
inces (especially in Gaul) were carried out. Con- 
stantius, in particular, distinguished himself by a 
praiseworthy founding of schools of learning. By 
the year 300 a.d. the Empire was enjoying a 
general peace and prosperity it had not known for 
many years. 

1 Become a great frontier city on the Moselle, an excellent place 
for the ruler who had to defend the imperilled Rhine frontier. 



IV. Diocletian realized that most of the misery of 
the preceding century had been due to the ascen- 
dency of the army and the ease with which any gen- 
eral could become a usurper. To check these 
vicious tendencies he took two steps that do not 
deserve entire praise. 

(a) To make the emperor's person seem more 
sacred, hence exempt from attack, he deliberately 
introduced the Oriental court ceremonial, 1 a glitter- 
ing diadem, a vast retinue of "sacred" court officers, 
the prostration before the throne of majesty, a 
magnificent palace and guards of honor, and the 
like. The emperor hereafter was to live retired., 
a demigod in his holy of holies. 

(b) To make the army officers less able to organize 
revolt, the old-time legions were broken up into much- 
smaller bands. In place of thirty-three there were 
several times as many, 2 but with only about two 
thousand men to the corps. Although the size of 
the army was actually increased, the commanders 
of such small groups could hardly hope to become, 
usurpers. The esprit de corps and unity of the 
old army was gone, and nothing really was done 

1 Aurelian had already taken some steps in that direction. 

3 By about 400 a.d. there were one hundred and seventy-five 
such reduced " legions " ; one can hardly say how many of them 
Diocletian organized. 


to improve the quality of the recruits. They were 
still conscripts from the lowest class of rustics, or 
downright barbarian volunteers, with many bar- 
barian officers. 

The army thus was somewhat weakened; the 
new and magnificent court cost heavily, and was a 
constant object-lesson in servility; yet it must be 
admitted that Diocletian partially attained his ob- 
ject. There were on the whole fewer mutinies and 
usurpers than before. 

V. With Diocletian ends any fiction of a joint 
rule of princeps and Senate. The emperor makes 
laws by his own personal rescript. The Senate is 
merely the city-council of Rome. Diocletian was an 
avowed despot. The taxation system was remoulded 
so as to exact the uttermost tribute to sustain four 
expensive courts and greedy armies. Italy, de- 
prived of her old privileges, was reduced to a level 
with all the other provinces. In 301 a.d. the " Lord 
and Master" of the world issued his famous "Edict 
of Prices" a well-meant but absurd attempt to fix 
the maximum price for almost every commodity, 
with the death penalty for demanding more. An 
attempt like this to set aside the laws of supply 
and demand shows Diocletian as a zealous but very 
fallible man. Hard circumstances soon caused the 
"Edict of Prices" to be brushed aside. It passed 


into history along with the author's untimely policy 
touching the growing body of the Christians. 

5. The Great Persecution under Diocletian. — The 
reformer of the Empire, hard-headed practical man 
of affairs that he was, had through his reforms 
made certain aims sufficiently clear; namely, the 
final ending of all "republican" pretence, the es- 
tablishment of a system of inheritance from the 
senior Augustus which should stop the constant 
scrambles for the purple, the abolition of the dictator- 
ship of the army, and the public installation of the 
absolutist government. He seemed in a fair way to 
succeed therewith. Could he so succeed if he al- 
lowed to exist in this Empire which he was remould- 
ing another allegiance, even one to an invisible God ? 
The fact was, that Diocletian, a late representative 
of the cold, pragmatic Roman spirit, was completely 
unable to understand a body of men who were ardent 
followers of an unworldly ideal, as were the Chris- 
tians. This antagonism of temperaments and aims 
was one obstacle; another was the fact that Diocle- 
tian, probably more than most contemporaneous 
Pagans, was a believer in the old gods. " Jovius," 
the representative of Jupiter, he officially styled 
himself, and the priests and haruspices of the old 
religion had large influence over him. Again, 
Galerius, the junior emperor in the East, was vio- 


lently anti-Christian, and urged his more cautious 
senior forward. Diocletian did not strike at once. 
His wife and his daughter were claimed by the Chris- 
tians. The Church was lulled into security. Then 
in 298 a.d. the order went forth that all soldiers and 
public officials must sacrifice to the gods. 

The command drove many Christians from the 
public service; others stifled their consciences and 
complied; others evaded the order. But after much 
hesitation, urged on by Galerius and the pagan 
priests, Diocletian struck harder. In 303, follow- 
ing a council of the dignitaries of the Empire, it 
was ordained that Christianity should be suppressed 
throughout the Roman world. 1 The splendid Chris- 
tian church building at Nicomedia was at once 
destroyed. A wholesale persecution was begun. 
The Christian churches were everywhere to be 
razed, their sacred writings seized and burned; 
Christian freemen were debarred from all honors 
and all rights as litigants, and Christian slaves could 
never receive liberty. 

The Christians met this edict with bold acts of 
defiance. A destructive fire which broke out in the 
imperial palace was laid at their door. A second 

1 This decree (as all others of the time) was in the name of the 
four emperors, but Diocletian, the guiding spirit of them all, was 
the responsible author. 


edict ordered that all Christian clergy should be 
cast into prison; later decrees commanded all 
Christians to sacrifice to the old gods on pain of 
bondage and torture. The death penalty was not 
directly ordained, but it was imposed by many 
overzealous magistrates. The full enginery of the 
law was put at work to hunt out the proscribed 
sectaries. In divers towns the tale runs — on no 
perfect authority, to be sure — that the executioners 
grew weary of their tasks, and the sated beasts of 
the arena refused to fly at their victims. 

It was a dramatic struggle waged by the con- 
queror and wielder of the world-empire against 
the almost nameless thousands he would bend or 
destroy. Yet Diocletian's cause was hopeless. He 
could not extirpate a goodly fraction of all his sub- 
jects. Many of his governors, under a show of loyal 
zeal, were actually humane, accepting any formality 
for a "sacrifice to the gods," and even causing the 
incense to be thrust into the unwilling defendant's 
hand. Constantius Chlorus enforced the decrees 
as little as possible in the West, though Maximianus 
was savage in Italy. But Diocletian did not wait 
for the end of his vain effort. He had probably 
resolved to see in his own lifetime whether his quad- 
ruple system — the two Augusti and the two Caesars 
— would work effectively with the master hand with- 


drawn. No doubt also he was weary of the cares 
of empire, and old age was upon him. Two new 
Caesars were created: Severus, who was to rule 
Italy and Africa ; Maximinus Daza, who was to have 
the Eastern Provinces. Constantius Chlorus and 
Galerius were promoted to the titles of Augusti. 
On May 1, 305 a.d., Diocletian abdicated the Em- 
pire in the presence of his army on the plain by 
Nicomedia, and retired to the magnificent palace 
he had built at Salona in Dalmatia. Maximianus 
he had persuaded to abdicate likewise, though with 
great reluctance. The world had new masters. 

The abdication of Dicoletian stands all but 
unique in history. 1 He retired in the plenitude of 
his power. Unfortunately for himself he was to live 
long enough to see his establishment of the imperial 
succession vanish in the tumult of civil war, and to 
see Christianity become a tolerated and triumphant 
religion. He died in 313 at Salona. Despite the 
failure of many of his policies, he was an example 
of how, even in its decay, the Roman system could 
produce able men. 

6. The Coming of Constantine (reign 306-337 
a.d.); the Triumph of Christianity. — Theoreti- 
cally, on the retirement of Diocletian, Constantius 
Chlorus had been left on terms of equality with the 

1 The famous parallel is the abdication of Charles V in 1556. 


other Augustus, Galerius. Actually, however, the 
two new Caesars were far more attached to Galerius 
than to his colleague, who in consequence controlled 
only one-fourth of the Empire. Galerius kept Con- 
stantius's son Constantine at his court as a kind 
of hostage for the father. Shortly after the great 
abdication, however, the young man made his 
escape to the West, and in 306, when Constantius 
died at York (Eboracum), in Britain, his soldiers 
promptly clothed Constantine with the purple. 
This was not to Galerius's liking, yet he agreed to 
accept Constantine as the junior Caesar, the more 
readily because other problems were arising nearer 
home. Old Maximianus had retired very reluctantly ; 
he was now grasping again at the empire; and at 
Rome the Praetorians (now merely the local garrison, 
not the imperial guard) were raising to power his 
worthless son Maxentius. It was practically the 
last attempt of the old Roman pride, military and 
civic, to claim its share in the distribution of power, 
outraged as it had been by the desertion of the 
emperors for the provinces. For the moment 
it was successful. Severus perished at Ravenna 
after an unsuccessful campaign against Maxentius, 
who now, along with his father, assumed the title of 
Augustus. Constantine did the like; Galerius created 
a new Augustus in the West, — Licinius, — so there 


were at least six Augusti, all claiming the supreme 
positions of the Empire. Vainly Galerius strove to 
destroy Maxentius and Maximianus. His attack on 
Italy was defeated, and he was plunged in even 
greater difficulties. In 311 a.d., worn out by storm 
and stress, he died. He had already been driven 
to recognize the hopelessness of persecuting the 
Christians. His violent edicts simply could not 
be enforced. In 311 a.d., shortly before his end, he 
issued an edict of toleration, in which he deplored 
the unwillingness of the Christians "to come back to 
reason," yet out of his "most prompt indulgence " 
he allowed them to "hold their conventicles, pro- 
vided they did nothing contrary to good order." 

This was not quite the end of the persecution. 
Daza and Licinius were still to oppress cruelly in the 
East, but the great battle of a brotherhood of the 
weak against a mighty despotism had been sub- 
stantially won. 

Ere Galerius had died, the aged Maximianus had 
quarrelled with his son Maxentius, had fled to the 
court of Constantine, and there speedily was put to 
death by that vigorous but unscrupulous ruler. In 
312 a.d. Constantine moved against Maxentius, 
who had disgusted Italy by his cruelty and incompe- 
tence, although the Praetorians, duly humored, still 
stood by him. It was high time to end the incessant 


strife following the collapse of Diocletian's system. 
With the warlike army of the West at his back, 
Constantine, young, keen-eyed, undaunted, forced 
the Alpine passes, routed Maxentius's generals in 
Northern Italy and drew near to Rome, where Maxen- 
tius had concentrated a large force for a final stand. 
What followed next? It is easy to criticise the 
story as subsequently given out, to explain that it was 
fabricated after in the reign of Constantine by Chris- 
tian biographers. Yet the story is a famous one, 
and some facts are indisputable. The tale runs that 
shortly before the decisive battle Constantine, hav- 
ing prayed earnestly for divine help, fell asleep; he 
dreamed that Christ appeared to him, indicating to 
him to inscribe the Cross upon his banners (hoc 
signo vinces!), and bear it against his foes with full 
confidence of victory. The next morning he caused 
the Cross to be blazoned on a standard called the 
Labarum, in a form to make also a monogram of the 
name of Christ in Greek (N^). Inspired by this 
promise and symbol, he and his army swept forward, 
and at the Mulvian Bridge (27th October, 312 a.d.), 
nigh to Rome, Maxentius's host was completely 
routed. The pagan Emperor was drowned in the 
Tiber; Constantine entered Rome, his legions very 
probably bearing through the applauding Forum the 
standard of the once despised Cross. 


Probably — assuming Constantine did now for the 
first time use the cross on his banners — he had 
long been in sympathy with Christianity, and had — 
with wise political instinct — resolved to utilize the 
strength of the growing Church to consolidate his 
empire. In 313 a.d., in alliance with Licinius, 
the master of the East (who had just defeated 
and destroyed Maximinus Daza), — he issued the 
famous Edict of Milan, by which Christianity was 
not merely permitted to all his subjects, but was put 
practically on an equality with paganism, by exempt- 
ing churches as well as temples from direct taxation. 
The martyrs had not died in vain. 

7. The Reign of Constantine; the Founding of 
Constantinople. — The battle of the Mulvian Bridge 
had been decisive. The West was now in the hands of 
another daring innovator. Admirable his character 
was not; he was destined to put to death his eldest 
son, Crispus, his wife, Faustina, and cruelly to do 
away with many enemies. Though potently favor- 
ing the Christians, he never formally repudiated 
paganism until on his death-bed. He was still 
"Pontifex Maximus," nominally the chief priest of 
the old state religion. 1 In 314 a.d. he became em- 

1 This fact did not prevent the Christian clergy from treating 
his utterances as semi-inspired. On occasions he seems to have 
preached regular sermons in the palace chapel. Undoubtedly 


broiled with Licinius, and after a brief war took away 
his power in the major part of the Balkan Peninsula. 
The struggle, however, was not final. The two 
emperors affected to be colleagues until 323 a.d., 
when Licinius — probably alarmed at the favor 
Constantine was winning among the Eastern Chris- 
tians — took up arms again. But once more the 
army of the West proved superior to its Eastern 
rival. Licinius lost a great battle at Adrianople, his 
fleet was defeated in the Hellespont, his stronghold 
at Byzantium was hard pressed, and at last he was 
utterly routed at Chrysopolis (in Asia, opposite 
Byzantium). Fleeing to Nicomedia, he was taken 
prisoner, and soon after (324 a.d.) put to death. 
From this time until 337 a.d. the Empire again had a 
single master, both for woe and for weal. 

Two great events marked the reign of Constantine : 
the Council of Nicasa, and the founding of Constanti- 
nople. It is a gloomy commentary upon the way in 
which the Christians had learned the lesson of holy 
charity, that hardly had persecution ceased ere 
violent doctrinal dissensions broke out among them. 
The fiercest of these, a veritable tempest in the 
Church, was the Arian Controversy. Arius, an 
eloquent and popular " presbyter" of Alexandria, 

his sympathies were with the Christians, but it was hardly safe to 
repudiate the old religion too absolutely. 


became, even ere Constantine was sole sovran, the 
exponent of a highly formidable heresy. Contrary 
to the previous general run of theological opinion, 
he taught that the "Son" (Jesus Christ) although 
invested with divine power by God the Father, was 
simply the first created of all beings, although 
fashioned out of nothing and perfect in excellence. 
Practically, this was a denial of the Godhead of 
Jesus as the actual eternal Son of the Father. The 
theological value of this opinion there is no need for 
historians to consider, yet it is worth noticing that 
if Arianism had prevailed, early Christianity would 
have been at a great temporal disadvantage. In 
combating the paganism of the barbarians who 
were presently to destroy the Empire, it was a vast 
gain for the Church to claim as its earthly founder 
the "Very God," not a "God-Man," a personage 
simply better than Socrates. If once the feeble 
critical faculties of the age were satisfied that the 
high claims of the Church for its Master were valid, 
the Church could assume a sanction and authority 
impossible to any cold, man-made monotheism. 
It was thus no mere theological quibble about which 
Arius and his foes strove. Sides were taken through- 
out the Eastern Church ; fiery excommunications 
were bandied about. Dismayed at this strife in the 
organization he had fostered, Constantine sum- 


moned at Nicaea in Bithynia a great council of the 
leaders of the entire Church (325 a.d.). 

The Council of Nicaea, attended by 318 bishops and 
a host of lesser ecclesiastics, is a mile-stone in 
Christian history, (a) It marks the intermingling 
of Church and State, such as prevailed all through the 
Middle Ages. Constantine himself — not yet even a 
communicant of the Church — took part in the 
deliberations, (b) It put an abiding seal and stamp 
upon Christian doctrine. Thanks especially to the 
eloquence of Athanasius, another churchman of 
Alexandria, the Council condemned Arius, and 
adopted the famous Nicene Creed, in which the 
Godhead of Jesus Christ was affirmed in the clearest 
possible language. A great deal of other ecclesiasti- 
cal business was transacted, the date for Easter was 
fixed, and a series of canons (Church laws) on ques- 
tions of Church policy and discipline enacted. In 
short, from this time onwards a "General Council" 
came to be recognized as an ultimate appellate and 
reforming power in the Church. 

The Council of Nicaea did not end Arianism. 
The heretics refused to submit; thanks to personal 
influences at court, they induced even Constantine to 
show them favor. The strife went on bitterly during 
the reigns of later emperors, and divers of the bar- 
barian tribes that were to invade the Empire were 


converted first to Arianism, and only later to "Catho- 
lic Christianity." But the great bulk of the Church 
accepted the decisions of the Council, and the 
Nicene Creed is recited in countless churches at 
the present day. 

The other great deed of Constantine was the 
founding of Constantinople. Hard experience had 
taught that it was impossible to govern the Empire 
from Rome; it was too far from the northern frontiers; 
too far from the very important East. Rome, too, 
was steeped in pagan tradition. Christianity needed a 
capital specifically its own. In his war with Licinius, 
Constantine had learned of the matchless advantages 
of old Byzantium — in Europe yet fronting Asia: with 
easy access to the Danube, with a magnificent harbor, 
and superb possibilities of defence. It was here 
he began the building of a "New Rome." The 
resources of the administration and treasury were 
strained to hasten the work. Magnificent palaces, 
baths, circuses, forums, and the like were undertaken. 
Senators from Old Rome on the Tiber were induced 
to move to the new capital. Settlers from the 
adjacent provinces were forced or induced to swell 
the populace. Old Rome and many other ancient 
cities were stripped of their works of art to beautify 
the "City of Constantine" — Constantinople, as 
almost from the first it was called. 


In 330 a.d. the city was solemnly dedicated, — 
Christian writers say to the Blessed Virgin, — and 
from this time it was the usual seat of the imperial 
court. Thus the old capital, long deserted by the 
emperors, could no longer claim to be even the 
largest city in the Empire. A second "Senate" 
was set up in the new city; and in magnificence, in 
population (especially as she declined), Rome was 
entirely rivalled by Constantinople — another sign 
that the original Roman Empire, as its founders 
knew it, was surely drawing towards its end. 

8. The Later Roman Regime. — The reign of 
Constantinewas one of relative peace and prosperity; 
yet the Emperor was unable or unwilling to hold back 
the destructive influences silently at work. The 
Goths, Franks, and Persians were indeed kept in 
check, but some of Constantine's legislation actually 
made a bad situation worse. To carry out his 
ambitious schemes at Constantinople and elsewhere 
the Emperor taxed unmercifully. The old oppression 
by the treasury became harder than ever. There 
were special taxes on senators, special taxes on 
industries, numbing to all trade. By this time the 
positions of municipal senators (decurions), once 
honorable, had become to every holder a curse, for 
such holders were liable for the full arrears of taxes 
in their community, whether owed by them or not, 


Stern laws, frequently reenforced, tended to fix 
every man in a status — a position heritable from 
father to son — which bound him to his paternal 
craft, or calling, or farm, — almost the whole object 
being to prevent the evasion of taxes or public ser- 
vice. The Christian clergy, soldiers, and divers very 
high officials were exempt from the load of taxation. 
It was crushing upon all the rest; and decurions 
actually tried to escape their " nobility" and flee 
away, rather than endure the financial burdens which 
meant beggary. 

In the agricultural communities the process of 
reducing the small farmers to quasi-serfs (coloni) 
was still going on. Only the great landed proprietors, 
able to pay the tax and bribe the officials, were 
waxing mightier than ever. In 332 a.d. the Emperor 
ordained that once a colonus meant always a colonus 
— the former bare legal right to quit the proprietor's 
estate was taken away; really, however, the recog- 
nition of an actual condition of servitude. 

Among the new offices and institutions we find in 
this age it is hard to decide just which originated 
with Constantine, which with Diocletian, which with 
earlier emperors. By the end of the reign of Con- 
stantine we meet a hierarchy of great officers, usually 
bearing the title of Comes ( = Count, Companion 

to the Emperor) and Dux ( = Duke, Leader of a 


large division of the army). The imperial court is 
" Sacred" despite professions of Christianity; thus, 
the " Court of the Sacred Largesses" is the Finance 
Minister. The time-honored consuls, etc., were not 
yet abolished, but the civil administration was now 
largely in the hands of four prcetorian prcefects, 
no longer leaders of the guard, 1 who ruled four 
great divisions of the Empire, — the prefectures of 
the East, of Illyricum, of Italy, and of Gaul (with 
Britain and Spain). Subdividing these prefectures 
were altogether thirteen dioceses, each under a vice- 
praefect or vicarius, and these dioceses in turn were 
broken into one hundred and sixteen rather small 
provinces, ruled by magistrates with differing titles, — 
proconsuls, consulars, correctors, or more frequently, 
presidents {prcesides) . 

Something had been done to restore the coinage 
from the utter disorder and worthlessness of the 
third century; but nothing effective was accomplished 
to prevent the increasing influx of barbarians into the 
army. The administration, through all its great 
horde of officials, ever tightened its grip on the un- 
fortunate subject, converting him into a mere tax- 
paying machine, and yet denying him the use of 
weapons. Long since, by constant governmental 

1 The Praetorian Guard was abolished upon the downfall of 
Maxentius (312 a.d.). 


interference and the wrack of war, the liberties of the 
cities — the most flourishing part of the Empire — 
had been ruined. Liberty in the political sense 
existed nowhere; and art and literature had very 
nearly withered away. Constantinople rose as a 
magnificent city, but her creation was almost the last 
great effort of a civilization far past its prime. 

In 337 a.d. Constantine "the Great" (so his Chris- 
tian eulogists called him) died. He had been cruel 
to his kinsfolk, and unsparing towards his subjects; 
but perhaps it would be unfair to upbraid him with 
failing to foresee all the consequences of an absolutism 
he did not create. The man who could recognize the 
temporal value of Christianity, and who could found 
Constantinople — on the most strategic site in the 
world — had certain elements of greatness about 
him, despite much human unworthiness. 

9. The Last Emperors before the Invasions (337- 
378 a.d.). — The generation between the death of 
Constantine and the permanent lodgment of the 
barbarians inside the Empire was relatively quiet 
so far as frontier invasions were concerned. Con- 
stantine had unwisely divided the sovranty between 
his three surviving sons and two nephews, but by 
340 a.d. the nephews and one of the sons, Constantine 
II, had perished in fratricidal strife. In 350 a.d. 
Constans, the ruler of the West, died, and Constan- 


tius (sole ruler, 350-361) proved fairly vigorous 
and competent in dealing with the uneasy Franks 
and Alemanni. 

In 361 a.d. the army in Gaul mutinied and raised 
to the purple Julian the Philosopher (or "the Apos- 
tate") (361-363 a.d.). Julian was a cousin of 
Constantius, and had already been created a Caesar. 
The Emperor marched against him, but died ere the 
decisive battle. Julian was now generally recognized. 
He had been brought up amid Christian influences, 
but he was disgusted at the contentions of unworthy 
churchmen, and was profoundly tinctured with the 
later types of pagan mysticism and philosophy. 
Julian was the last pagan Augustus. Himself a keen 
writer, he waged war in favor of paganism with 
his pen, and strove by official discouragement of 
Christianity — though he stopped short of physical 
persecution — and by purifying the old heathen cults 
to bring back the ancient worship to favor. It was 
a vain attempt in any case. Christianity was now far 
stronger than in Diocletian's day. After a short 
reign, however, before he could learn the futility of 
his attempt, Julian died on an expedition against the 

The army chose as successor Jovianus (363-364 
a.d.), who was a Christian, and after his sudden 
death Valentinianus (364-375 a.d.), a not incapable 


soldier, who assumed the rule of the West, but 
gave the East to his less competent brother, Valens 
(364-378). On Valentinianus's death he was suc- 
ceeded in the West by his son, Gratianus (375-383 
a.d.), but Valens continued to reign in the East. 
Despite various frontier tumults, the Empire seemed 
intact when, in 375 a.d., the Germanic Goths north 
of the Danube, fleeing before the savage Huns, who 
were invading Europe from Asia, appeared on the 
confines of Valens's dominions, and begged refuge 
in the Empire as peaceful settlers. After much 
parleying, the Goths were admitted, but disputes with 
Roman officials as to the lands they were to receive 
led to war, and their ravaging horde passed over the 
Balkan Peninsula. At Adrianople (378 a.d.) Valens, 
with a strong imperial army, was destroyed by them. 
The barbarians were now fairly within the Empire, 
and were never to be driven out. The Roman Age 
had ended; the Middle Ages had begun. 

10. Retrospect. — In 378 a.d. the Roman Empire 
was on the point of a lingering but certain death. 
Egyptian, Judean, Syrian, Hellene, Italian, Celt — all 
had been fused into one vast society, — a world-state 
such as never before had been, and has not since 
existed. Now was coming the dissolution — the 
long, deep agony of the early Middle Ages, the 
infinite pain and travail, while war reigned and 


civilization slept. Christianity had been accepted too 
late to save the old society from its sins. Could the 
ultimate disaster have been averted? Perhaps, — 
if Augustus and his immediate successors had been 
men of superhuman prescience, — though by the 
year 200 a.d. the evils had become too great to be 
really healed. Many of the causes of decay have al- 
ready been given, 1 yet looking backward from the 
end of the imperial society to its beginning, certain 
fundamental errors, inherent in the government 
rather than merely in society, stand out clearly, 
that from the outset burdened the working of the 

I. No good method of succession to the Empire 
was arranged. Too much scope was given for the 
intrigues of ambitious generals and the passions of 
the legions. A constant premium was put on civil 

II. The emperors ended by establishing a des- 
potism; but there was no equality even among the 
subject masses. To the evils of monarchy were 
added the evils of aristocracy. The governmental 
policy consistently favored the rich — the Senatorial 
and Equestrian orders 2 — at the expense of the 

1 See pp. 142-150. 

3 The Equites as an order disappear after Constantine. Some 
were levelled with the Plebs, some merged in the senatorial class. 


Plebeians. Quite early in the course of the Em- 
pire we find the legal distinction between honestiores 
and humiliores, — the noblemen and the poor; 
the law becomes openly "the respecter of persons," 
and there is a lighter punishment for the well 
born than for the humble. 

III. The army was too small, considering its 
great task. In fear of encouraging revolt among the 
subjects, the military virtues and training were dis- 
couraged outside the actual camp. There was no 
reserve, no efficient militia. The suicidal policy of 
recruiting barbarians went on to the end. Finally, 
in the third century, the army got wholly out of 
hand. Diocletian and Constantine effected some 
temporary, but not permanent, improvements. 

IV. No attempt was made to substitute free labor 
for slavery. The rise of the coloni simply introduced 
a serfage that was almost as hard on the peasantry 
as the average servitude. 

V. No encouragement was given to free local 
institutions. The thriving municipal life was allowed 
to be crushed out. The provincial assemblies for 
"worship of the emperor" were never allowed to 
become really efficient representative bodies. 

VI. The government did not use its vast resources 
for the ultimate public betterment. It built roads, 
baths, amphitheatres; it gave games, doled out corn, 


supported orphans ; but there seem to have been 
no attempts at general sanitation, the prevention of 
plagues by developing science, the promotion of 
labor- and time-saving inventions. There was in- 
telligence enough in the early Empire to have in- 
vented a locomotive or a spinning- jenny, had the 
ruling powers really felt the need of expanding the 
human horizon. They could not see beyond the old 
methods, the painful, laborious ways of their fathers. 
Only in the arts which directly cater to ostentation and 
vanity was certain progress made; e.g. in the famous 
Baths of Caracalla at Rome, a wonderful piece of 
architecture, — the hanging of the domes, etc., is 
extremely ingenious, because the ingenuity of the 
architect redounded to the glory of the imperial 

VII. Again, no system of taxation was devised that 
could be endured save in times of prosperity. Until 
about 161 a.d. probably most taxes were paid readily, 
because the world had peace and plenty. In the 
stormy days following, the taxes were not abated, 
though they cost the heart's blood of the provincials, 
racked by civil war or invasion. On the contrary, 
urged by military necessity, or sheer extravagance, 
even relatively able emperors, like Diocletian and 
Constantine, added to the burden. This in itself 
was enough to breed disaster. 


The Roman Empire fell. The story of its fall — 
of Alaric, Gaiseric, Odoacer, Theodoric, and their 
successors, forms the opening chapter of mediaeval 
history. But even in its fall, its shadow loomed 
across the later ages. There was its so-called revival 
by Charlemagne and the kings of Germany — in the 
"Holy Roman Empire," which, with its strange 
vicissitudes, forms so great a part of the story of 
Italy and Germany. Also at Constantinople the 
"Eastern" or "Byzantine Empire" lived on, and 
claimed to sustain the old Roman traditions. But 
the Eastern Empire owed its strength and its un- 
deniable glory to the Greek and Oriental element 
within it. In the West the barbarian "Kings" 
were to take the place of the imperial "Augusti." 




There were several kinds of governorships under the 
Empire, namely: — 

I. Senatorial Governors, chosen by the Senate for 

one year to rule the senatorial provinces. 

(a) Consular Proconsuls, for the two most im- 
portant senatorial provinces — Asia and 

(b) Praetorian Proconsuls, for the less important 
senatorial provinces. 

II. Imperial Governors. The emperor in theory 

governed the imperial provinces himself, 
and simply sent a deputy (legatus) to rule 
on the spot for him. These legati Augusti 
pro-prcetore — to give the full title — held of- 
fice at pleasure of their master, sometimes 
for many years. They were: — 

(a) Consular Legati, for the more important 
imperial commands and provinces. 

(b) Prcetorian Legati, for the less important 
imperial commands and provinces. 

(c) Imperial Procurators. A procurator under 
the Empire was ordinarily an agent of the 



emperor to attend to the management of 
his personal estates, or to collect the revenues 
of the imperial provinces for the fiscus 
(emperor's treasury). But for various small 
provinces there were procuratores Ccesaris 
pro legato — an inferior class of legati, where 
a praetorian or consular legatus was not 
needed, e.g. Pontius Pilate in Judaea in 
33 a.d. was a governor of this rank of procu- 
rator. These men were more or less 
subject to the regular legatus of some neigh- 
boring province, — thus Pilate was presently 
removed from office by the consular legatus 
of Syria, 
(d) In Egypt, regarded as the emperor's pri- 
vate domain-land, was a special governor, 
a prcefectus, of merely equestrian rank, but 
clothed with the power of a consular legatus. 

A list of the provinces as they had developed by reign 
of Trajan, with the rank of the governor of each, fol- 
lows : * — 

[Imperial provinces in italics: all others are senatorial.] 

Britain: consular legatus. 

Belgica (North Gaul) : praetorian leg. 

Lugdunensis (Central Gaul) : praetorian leg. 

1 To ascertain the precise status of certain provinces at a given 
time is a matter of difficulty. 


Aquitania (Southwest Gaul): praetorian leg. 
Narbonensis (Southeast Gaul) : praetorian proconsul. 
Upper Germany: consular leg. 
Lower Germany: consular leg. 
Tarraconensis (North Spain) : consular leg. 
Lusitania (Southwest Spain) : praetorian leg. 
Baetica (South Spain): praetorian proconsul. 
Mauretania (divided into two sections): procuratores. 
Numidia: praetorian leg. 
Africa: consular proconsul. 
Sardinia and Corsica: procurator (?). 
Sicily: praetorian proconsul. 

Upper and Lower Pannonia: each under a consular leg. 
Upper and Lower Mcesia: each under a consular leg. 
Dacia: consular leg. 

Alpine Provinces (divided into three sections) : procura- 
Rhcetia: procurator. 
Noricum: procurator. 
Thrace: praetorian leg. 
Epirus: procurator (?). 
Macedonia: praetorian proconsul. 
Achaia (Greece Proper) : praetorian proconsul. 
Crete and Cyrene : praetorian proconsul. 
Bithynia: praetorian proconsul. 
Cyprus: praetorian proconsul. 
Asia: consular proconsul. 
Galatia: praetorian leg. 
Pamphylia and Lycia: praetorian leg. 



Cappadocia: consular leg. 

Cilicia: praetorian leg. 

Syria: consular leg. 

Arabia: praetorian leg. 

Judcea, up to fall of Jerusalem 70 a.d.: a procurator; 

later, a special consular leg. 
Egypt: prafectus, of equestrian rank, but with powers of 

consular leg. 

Note how the Senate has peaceful provinces where 
usually no army is needed by the governor, while all the 
exposed frontier, or turbulent provinces, are the em- 



A. Direct Appointees and Agents of the Emperor, 
i. Prcetorian Prefect. Commander of Imperial 
Guard. Highly important officer and prac- 
tically prime minister; had general care of 
execution of imperial decrees. Under later 
Empire acted as high judge on appeals in 
litigation originating in the provinces. This 
office often divided among two men. 

2. City Pr cefect (Prcefectus Urbi). Practically 

governor of city of Rome. Commanded 
the " Urban Cohorts" — city patrol (about 
6000 men). Acquired presently chief appel- 
late jurisdiction in Rome and region about. 

3. Pr cefect oj the Watch (Prajectus Vigilum). 

Commanded the Vigiles (7000 or more), 
body of police and firemen supplementing 
the " Urban Cohorts"; he was subordinate 
to the city praefect. 

4. Project oj the Corn Supply {Prcejectus An- 

nonce). Head of the special imperial bureau 


for keeping Rome supplied with Egyptian 
and African corn. 

5. Curators of the Water Supply (three on the 

board) . 

6. Curators of the Roads (one official for each of 

the great roads in Italy). 

7. Procurators of the Private Estates of the Em- 

peror (a large number at Rome and in the 
provinces) . 

8. Procurator of the Fiscus (Procurator a rati- 

onibus), down to Hadrian's time a f reed- 
man, after him an Eques; was superintend- 
ent of the imperial treasury. 

9. Secretaries for the Imperial Correspondence (ab 

epistolis), one for correspondence in Greek, 
one for Latin. 
9. Secretary for Petitions to the Emperor (a 

libellis) . 
10. Secretaries for preparing Legal Opinions for 
the Emperor (a cognitionibus). 

[N. B. Down to Hadrian's time practically all these 
very important secretaryships were held by freedmen.] 

B. Old Republican Magistracies. 

[Elected annually after the death of Augustus, 
by votes of the Senate.] 
1. Consuls (two). Presided over Senate; had 
certain judicial functions, but office mainly 
ornamental. Great honor to hold it. Under 


Empire, the first pair of consuls for the year 
often gave way after a few months to sub- 
stitute consuls (consules suffecti). 

2. Prcetors (under Augustus twelve, later raised 

to eighteen). Acted as presidents of courts, 
but power as judicial officers greatly abridged 
by the city praefect, praetorian praefect, and 
other imperial officers. 

3. Aediles (six). Commissioners of Public Works, 

Superintendents of Markets, etc., under old 
Republic. Now shorn of most of their 
powers, save as street and sanitary com- 
missioners, by new imperial officers. 

4. Tribunes of the Plebs (ten). Theoretically 

still had great prerogatives, especially right 
to veto acts of Senate and magistrates. 
Power soon reduced to a show. " An empty 
shadow and a name without honor'' (a view 
current about 100 a.d.). 

5. Qucestors (probably twenty). During part of 

imperial period had charge of ^Erarium 
(Senate's treasury). Acted as secretaries 
and financial aids for the consuls, the gov- 
ernors of the senatorial provinces, and two 
quaestors, specially honored, were assigned as 
a kind of secretaries to the emperor. 



44 B.C. Assassination of Julius Caesar. 

Antonius and Octavian grasping 
for power. 

43 Battle of Mutina. Antonius, Oc- 
tavian, and Lepidus form Sec- 
ond Triumvirate. 

42 Battle of Philippi, avenging of 
38-36 War with Sextus Pompeius for 

36 Fall of Sextus Pompeius; Lepidus 
expelled from government. 

31 Battle of Actium. Fail of Antonius 
and Cleopatra. 
31 B.C.- 1 4 A.D. Rule of Augustus (Octavian 

took name in 27 B.C.) as "Prin- 
ceps " and actual Monarch. An 
age of firm government, many 
reforms, material prosperity, 
literary activity. 
12-9 B.C. Drusus makes temporary conquest 
of Germany. 


9 a.d. Successful revolt of Germany. 
14-37 Rule of Tiberius, stepson of 
Augustus (capable ruler, but 
morose, unpopular; at end, 
cruel) . 
19 Death of Germanicus in Syria 
after his uncompleted attempt 
to win back Germany. 
31 Fall of Sejanus, the great prime 
minister of Tiberius. Tiberius 
ends reign self -exiled at Capri. 
37-41 Caligula, son of Germanicus (destructive 

41-54 Claudius, younger brother of Germanicus 

(fairly able sovran, but ruled 
by his freedmen — Narcissus, 
Pallas, etc. — and his profligate 
wives, Messalina and Agrip- 
pina the Younger). 
43 Romans begin conquest of Britain. 
54-68 Nero, son of Agrippina and adopted 

son of Claudius (ill-balanced 
youth with taste for the arts, 
poetry, music, etc., — under bad 
influences becomes a monster: 
murders mother, wife, kinsfolk; 
but for first five years Empire 
well ruled by his tutor, Seneca, 
and praetorian praefect, Burrhus). 


64 Great Fire in Rome. Persecution 
of the Christians. 

68-69 Galba 

69 Otho 

69 Vitellius 

Three short-reigning, incapable 
emperors following on deposi- 
tion and suicide of Nero. Violent 
civil wars, each army supporting 
its candidate to the purple. 
69-79 Vespasian, of humble origin, founder of 

"Flavian Dynasty." Efficient 
general, and common-sense re- 
former and restorer of Empire 
after misrule of Nero's later 
years and the civil war. 
69-71 Civilis's revolt among the Ba- 
tavians and Gauls. At first suc- 
cessful, then wholly suppressed. 
70 Titus captures and destroys Jeru- 
salem (Jews in revolt since 66 


79-81 Titus, eldest son of Vespasian. (Popular, 
generous, good soldier.) 
79 Eruption of Vesuvius: Pompeii 
81-96 Domitian, younger son of Vespasian. (Not 

without capacity, but a man of 
the Tiberius type. Encouraged 
informers. Lowered prestige of 
Senate. Took censorship for 
life. Finally driven to acts of 


96-98 Nerva, aged senator raised to power on 

murder of Domitian (moderate, 
peace-loving man). 
98-117 Trajan, adopted son of Nerva. (Best 

general in army; reformer and 
conqueror; respected Senate; 
humane and moderate in policy; 
his reign among the very 

101-102, 105-107 Campaigns against Dacians, for- 
midable people north of Danube; 
they are conquered, and Dacia 
made a province. 
114-116 Trajan invades Parthia. Transi- 
tory conquest of whole Tigro- 
Euphrates Valley. 

1 17-138 Hadrian, adopted son of Trajan (art-lover 

and aesthete; more a Hellene 
than Roman; reorganized army, 
but preserved peace; spent 
much of reign on travels around 
whole Empire; somewhat er- 
ratic in temperament, but in- 
telligent and beneficent law- 
giver; reorganization of im- 
perial council: publication of 
the " Perpetual Edict"; begin- 
ning of codification of Roman 


1 38-1 6 1 Antoninus Pius, adopted son of Hadrian 

(peaceful, very uneventful reign, 
but probably an unperceived 
deterioration of the Empire). 

161-180 Marcus Aurelius, adopted son of Antoninus 

(humanitarian and philosopher; 
but period of pestilence, insur- 
rection, Germanic invasions — 
Quadi,Marcomanni, etc. — from 
North. The Empire, hitherto 
seemingly very prosperous, begins 
to decline.) 

180-192 Commodus, son of Marcus (unworthy tyrant, 

of the type of a Nero). 
193 Pertinax (able ruler, but soon murdered by 

mutinous praetorians). 

193 Didius Julianus (bought the Empire from praeto- 
rians; wholly unworthy, soon 

193-21 1 Septimius Severus, leader of Danubian legions 

(overcame other claimants to 
purple. Very capable ruler, but 
stern, often cruel. Ignored opin- 
ion of Senate ; beginning of un- 
veiled despotism). 
211-217 Caracalla, son of Septimius Severus (tyrant 

and fratricide. Bestowed " citi- 
zenship " on provincials in order 
to tax them more. Humored 



the army, which was becoming 
demoralized) . 
217 Macrinus, short-lived usurper. 
218-222 Elagabalus, a Syrian priest of the sun-god. 

(Profligate youth, who, however, 
was largely controlled by his 
able mother and grandmother.) 
222-235 Alexander Severus, cousin of Elagabalus (agree- 
able personality; largely con- 
trolled by his mother and great 
jurist Ulpianus; period of com- 
parative calm and prosperity; 
Senate treated with respect; 
but inglorious wars with revived 
Persian Empire, and army get- 
ting out of control). 
Period of terrible confusion. Con- 
stant revolts of legions, pre- 
tenders, usurpers, etc. Also 
invasions by Germanic tribes 
and Persians. Decius slain in 
battle by Goths. Valerianus 
taken captive by Persians. 
Empire seemed on verge of 
destruction. Saved by able 
military emperors following. 

235-238 Maximinus 
238 Gordianus I 
with Gordianus II 
238-244 Gordianus III 
244-249 Philip the 
249-251 Decius 
251-253 Gallus 
253 ^Emilianus 
253-260 Valerianus 
260-268 Gallienus 
268-270 Claudius II, flung back invading Goths and 



270-275 Aurelian, evacuated Dacia, but drove back 

Goths and other invaders. 
(Built walls around city of 
Rome. Conquered Zenobia, 
"Queen of the East," with 
power centered at Palmyra, 
and Tetricius, Emperor of se- 
ceding " Gallic Empire." A 
remarkable reign.) 
275 Tacitus, aged senator, named by Senate 

at request of army after murder 
of Aurelian. 
276-282 Probus (worthy successor of Aurelian's 

policy. Beat back invaders; 
suppressed rebels). 
282-283 Cams (died on successful invasion of 

Persia) . 
284 Numerianus, son of Carus (soon died). 
284-305 Diocletian; Illyrian peasant. Elevated to 

power by army as best available 
man. (Bold innovator; tried 
to end anarchy, and danger of 
revolt by division of Empire- 
Provinces subdivided to dis- 
courage governors from revolt. 
Last pretence of Republican 
liberties abolished. Senate 
merely city council of Rome; 
new and severe taxes; Oriental 


court ceremonial introduced. 
Absolute monarchy from this 
reign onward.) 
285 Maximianus made Augustus (co-emperor). 
293 Constantius Chlorus and Galerius, made "Caesars" 

(junior emperors). 

303 Last great persecution of Chris- 

305 Diocletian abdicates, wishing to 
see how his system would work 
in his lifetime. New Caesars 
appointed, former Caesars being 
raised to Augusti. 
306-312 Almost ceaseless civil war and 
change of rulers. 
306-337 Constantine the Great, son of Constantius 

Chlorus. (At first holds only- 
extreme Western Provinces.) 

312 Battle of Mulvian Bridge. Con- 
stantine wins Rome and Italy. 
Becomes a protector of Chris- 

323 Constantine destroys Licinius, ruler 
of the East, and is sole emperor. 

325 Council of Nicaea (first Christian 
General Council) called by Con- 
stantine to deal with Arian 

330 Constantine founds a "New 


Rome," at Byzantium (Con- 
stantinople) , — an essentially 
Christian city. 
Diocletian's policy of absolutism, 
and reorganization of taxes, 
provinces, and army continued. 
337-361 The sons and kinsfolk of Con- 
stantine, many civil wars, etc. 
but chief ruler is — 
337-361 Constantius, son of Constantine. 

361-363 Julian, cousin of Constantius (pagan 

reactionary, with literary and 
philosophical bent; tried to dis- 
courage Christianity — "The 
Apostate" — and revive pagan- 
363-364 Jovianus, a Christian. 
364-375 Valentinianus I in the West, — a Christian. 
364-378 Valens (brother of last) in the East. 
367-383 Gratianus, son of Valentinianus I, succeeds 

in the West. 
378 The Visigoths, — entering Empire to escape the 

Huns, — slay Valens at Battle 
of Adrianople. Beginning of 
the Fall of the Roman Empire. 


Actium, battle of, 23. 

Adrianople, battle of, 197. 

^Emilianus, 153. 

iErarium, Senate's treasury, 45. 

Agrippa, 19, 22, 61. 

Agrippinathe Younger, 81, 82, 86. 

Albinus, 132, 134. 

Alexander Sever us, reign of, 139, 

Antoninus Pius, reign of, 121, 122. 

Antonius (Marcus), consul when 
Caesar was slain, 9 ; seizes gov- 
ernment, 10; attacks Decimus 
Brutus, 13; forms Triumvirate 
with Octavian and Lepidus, 
15; wins battle of Philippi, 
16; meets Cleopatra, 19; falls 
from power, 20-23; commits 
suicide, 24. 

Apollonius of Tyana, 166. 

Arian controversy, 188. 

Arminius, 57. 

Army, organization under early 
Empire, 41 ; becomes filled with 
Barbarians, 148; reorganized 
by Diocletian, 178. 

Augustus, name taken by Octa- 
vian, 27 ; regime he establishes, 
28-37; proverbial for leniency, 
31; revives religion, 45; at- 
tempts to found a dynasty, 59 ; 
dies, 63. 

Aurelian, his personality, 155; 
crushes Goths, 156; crushes 
Alemanni, 157; overcomes 
Zenobia, 158; overcomes Te- 
tricius, 159; is murdered, 160. 


Britain, its conquest begun under 
Claudius, 78; wall built there 
by Hadrian, 114. 

Britannicus, 82, 83, 84. 

Brutus, Decimus, 6, n, 13, 15. 

Brutus, Marcus, 6, 9, n, 16. 

Caesar, name of the Emperors, 

Caesar (Julius), conquers Gaul, 
3; overthrows the Republic, 
5-6; is murdered, 7; effects 
reforms, 7-8. 

Caligula, see Gaius. 

Caracalla, his reign, 137. 

Carinus, 162. 

Carus, 161. 

Cassius, 6, n, 16. 

Christians, persecuted by Nero, 
87 ; why subject to persecution, 
168-170; their condition in third 
century, 171; persecuted by 
Decius, 173; persecuted by 
Valerianus, 173; tolerated by 
Gallienus, 173; persecuted by 
Diocletian, 180; tolerated by 
Constantine, 186; divided by 
heresies, 189; vainly attacked 
by Julian, 196. 

Cicero, n, 12, 16. 

Cities of the Empire, 50, 116. 

City life and government in time 
of Hadrian, 11 7-1 20. 

Civilis, 92. 

Civilization, decline in, 149. 




Claudius, becomes Emperor, 76; 

his character, 77; ruled by his 
wives and freedmen, 79; is 
murdered, 82. 

Claudius II, 155. 

Cleopatra, 19, 21, 24. 

Coinage, debasement of, 147. 

Coloni, 143, 193. 

Colosseum, 92 note. 

Commerce of Empire, 50. 

Commodus, his reign, 130. 

Constantine (the Great), gains 
power, 184; favors Christians, 
186; holds Council of Nicaea, 
190 ; founds Constantinople, 191. 

Constantinople, founding of, 191. 

Constantius (son of Constantine), 

Constantius Chlorus, 176, 184. 
Council of Emperor, 113. 
Cremona, battle of, 89. 
Cyprian, 173. 


Dacia, 99, 106, 108. 

Daza (Maximinus), 183, 187. 

Decius, becomes Emperor, 151; 
is slain by Goths, 152; perse- 
cutes Christians, 173. 

Decline of Empire, causes thereof, 

Depopulation of Empire, 145. 

Didius Julianus, 132. 

Diocletian, becomes Emperor, 
162; divides Empire, 175; 
restores prosperity, 177; re- 
organizes the army, 178; es- 
tablishes absolutism, 179; 
issues "Edict of Prices," 179; 
persecutes Christians, 180; ab- 
dicates, 183. 

Divorce, legislation against, 47. 

Domitian, becomes Emperor, 97; 
absolute rule of, 98; is mur- 
dered, 102. 

Drusus, conquers Germany, 55. 


Edict of Caracalla, 137. 
Edict of Prices by Diocletian, 179. 
Elagabalus, 138. 

Emperor, worship of, 47; deifi- 
cation of, 48. 
Equites (Knights), 34. 

Financial system under Early 

Empire, 45. 
Fiscus, 45. 
Five Good Emperors, character 

of their times, 103. 
Freedmen, 41. 

Gaius, reign of, 74-75. 

Gaius Caesar, 61, 62. 

Galba, reign of, 89. 

Galerius, 176. 

Gallienus, reign of, 153, 154, 173. 

Gall us, 153. 

Germanicus, 67, 69. 

Germany, won and lost by Ro- 
mans, 53-59; attempt of Ger- 
manicus to reconquer it, 68. 

Geta, 137. 

Gordianus I, II, and III, 151. 

Goths, invade Empire in third 
century, 152; invade Empire 
in fourth century, 197. 

Gratianus, 197. 


Hadrian, his personality, no; 
his works of peace, in; evacu- 
ates Parthian provinces, 112; 
puts in force the "Perpetual 
Edict," 112; organizes Privy 
Council, 113; puts Italy under 
Imperial jurisdiction, 113; leg- 
islates in favor of slaves, 113; 
visits all parts of the Empire, 




Imperator (Emperor), title of Ro- 
man sovrans, 28-29. 
Italy, put under imperial judges, 



Jerusalem, taken by Titus, 96. 
Jews, revolt of, 92, 94-96. 
Jovianus, 196. 
Julia, 60, 61, 62. 
Julia Domna, 135. 
Julia Mamaea, 139. 
Julian the Philosopher (or "the 
Apostate "), 196. 

Knights, see Equites. 

Later Roman Regime, 192. 
Lepidus, 9, 15, 19. 
Licinius, 184, 187, 188. 
Literature (Latin), 52, 104. 
Livia, 60. 

Lucius Caesar, 61, 62. 
Ludi Saeculares, 46. 


Macrinus, 138. 

Maecenas, 27. 

Marcellus, 60, 61. 

Marcomanni, 127. 

Marcus Aurelius, his personality, 
122; his philosophy, 123; mis- 
fortunes of his reign, 125-126; 
Parthian war, 126; great 
pestilence in his reign, 126; 
wars with Germanic tribes, 
127; revolt of Avidius Cassius 
against him, 127; his last 
years and death, 128. 

Maxentius, 184, 186. 

Maximianus, 176, 183, 184. 

Maximinus, 142, 151. 
Maximinus Daza, 183, 187. 
Messalina, 80. 
Metaurus, battle of, 157. 
Mithras, religion of, 163. 
Mulvian Bridge, battle of, 186. 


Neo-Platonism, 166. 

Nero, adopted by Claudius, 82; 
declared Emperor, 82; is a 
good ruler under tutors, 83-84 ; 
becomes a tyrant, 84; perse- 
cutes Christians, 87; over- 
thrown by rebels, 88. 

Nerva, reign of, 102. 

Nicaea, Council of, 190. 

Numerianus, 161. 


Octavia (sister of Octavian), 19. 

Octavian, appears at Rome, 12; 
raises army, 13; joins alliance 
with Antonius and Lepidus, 
15; assumes rule of the West 
and of Italy, 18; overthrows 
Antonius, 21-24; takes title 
of Augustus, 24. 

Odenathus, 153. 

Otho, reign of, 89. 

Palmyra, 153, 156, 157, 158. 

Parthia, 20, 109, 126. 

Pax Romana, 49; bad effects of, 

Perpetual Edict, 112. 

Persian kingdom, succeeds Par- 
thia, 141. 

Pertinax, 131. 

Pescennius Niger, 132, 134. 

Philippi, battle of, 16. 

Philip the Arabian, 151. 

Plague ravages the Empire, 126. 

Plebeians, rights of, 36. 



Pliny the Younger in Bithynia, 

Pompeii, destroyed, 97. 

Pompeius, Sextus, 18-19. 

Pontifex Maximus, office held 
by Princeps, 30. 

Postumus, 153. 

Praetorians, put Empire up for 
auction, 131; are punished by 
Severus, 133. 

Princeps, power of, 28. 

Proconsular power of Princeps, 29. 

Provinces, division between Em- 
peror and Senate, ^^ note ; 
government under later Em- 
pire, 194. 

Provincials, their condition under 
early Empire, 37. 


Religious revival under Empire,45. 

Road system of Empire, 49. 

Rome, successor of all preceding 
civilizations, 3 ; rebuilt by Au- 
gustus, 49; her vastness and 
commerce, 51; destroyed by 
great fire in Nero's reign, 87. 

Salvius Julianus, 112. 

Sapor (King of Persia), 153. 

Sassanidae, 141. 

Sejanus, 69-72. 

Senate, power and composition 
of, 32-34; abased by Diocle- 
tian, 179. 

Seneca, 83, 85, 86. 

Septimius Severus, overthrows 
Didius Julianus, 133; his reign, 
134; his absolutist policy, 136. 

Serfage, 143- I 

Severus, 183. 

Slavery, bad results of, 143. 

Slaves, under early Empire, 39; 
legislation in their favor by 
Hadrian, 113. 

Tacitus, reign of, 160. 

Taxation, under early Empire, $8 ; 
under later Empire, 192. 

Tetricius, 159. 

Teutoburg Forest, battle of, 57. 

Tiberius, son of Livia, 60; re- 
tires to Rhodes, 62 ; made heir 
of Augustus, 63; becomes 
Emperor, 65; his relations to 
Germanicus, 67; deceived by 
Sejanus, 70-72; becomes a 
tyrant, 72-74; his death, 74. 

Titus, takes Jerusalem, 96; reign 
of, 96-97. 

Trajan, his able administration, 
103-104; Dacian wars, 106- 
108; Parthian wars, 109. 

Tribunician power of Princeps, 30. 

Triumvirate of Octavian, An- 
tonius, and Lepidus, 15. 


Ulpianus, 139. 

Valens, 197. 

Valentinianus, 196. 

Valerianus, 153, 173. 

Varus, 56-58. 

Verus (Lucius), adopted by Ha- 
drian, 116. 

Verus the Younger, colleague of 
Marcus Aurelius, 124-125. 

Vespasian, becomes Emperor, 90; 
his able reforms, 91 ; hisdeath,96. 

Vitellius, becomes Emperor, 89- 


Wars, waste caused by them, 

Zen jia, 157, 158. 







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